Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Settling down

OK, I wrote about all kinds of different experiences here, but I've not answered the very basic questions that everybody is asking me. And now it's time to do so, after I had some time to settle down a bit. What am I doing here now?
  • My research group is just great. People publishing relevant stuff on top-venue conferences. And right now I'm exploring new knowledge directions. Our group consists of one full professor, Klaus Ostermann, a few PhD students, and a couple more to come. We're in direct contact with him, and he's quite available. This allows us to grow and learn from him directly, unlike in huge universities where big names are hidden behind many levels of researchers.
  • I'm almost done dealing with bureaucracy. I recently got my contract from the university, and I have a bank account, residence certificate, immigration permit, and so on. But it was a long and painful fight. Phewww!
  • The place is just wonderful. Scientific faculties, like in Catania, lie uphill among trees, but the city is still quite far away. While I live quite next to the center, and to shops.
  • Home: I have a small room in a student dorm run by a local Evangelic church. Once upon a time, priests used to live here, but this is no more the case at all. Except for a few postcards about religions hanging on the walls, this is just a student dorm, and a nice one.
  • People in my student dorm are very nice and quite friendly, even if they are more friendly in German, for obvious reasons.
  • Food: Italian food pops out from everywhere. You can buy real Italian ingredients in a supermarket, or maybe-Italian prepared food somewhere. Especially they like Espresso and Cappuccino. Many of them crave for a really good one, and have to accept the inability to find any (say in my department). Their passion for Espresso seems like the passion for what you don't have (like penis envy in Freudian psychoanalysis). But you also find gorgonzola, ricotta, mascarpone, parmigiano, Nutella. So, cooking carbonara-way pasta, or tomatosauce, meatballs, or even risotto, is probably not a problem. I'm too lazy for now to try a ricotta cake or pizza ^_^. But I'm almost always cooking, when I eat at home.
  • Adult people sometimes are not so nice. I hate the guy who sold me my phone card. Shop owners in Catania are more respectful. But that's the exception.
  • My German is not good enough yet, but it's improving. I've been watching German TV. I even have a monolingual dictionary (a kind present of a leaving student of my dorm), and at some point soon I'll start to use it. Even my social life (beyond university) is starting to get back to a good level.
  • I enjoy shopping. Jesus, I do. OK, I'm cheating: I've never bought clothes here yet, and what I enjoy is finally finding something I've been looking for: cinnamom, cannella in Italian, was a bit hard to find. Or good olive oil. Or a hairdryer. Or a frying pan!
    I know that this might sound stupid and of little value when you read it, but find something like this opens new possibilities in your daily life. You're conquering a small piece of your life.
  • I finally have Internet home. The painful days of using Internet just at the university (and running for the last bus) or at the public library have ended.
  • I'm reading wonderful books. But I'll talk about them elsewhere.
And for the future? It'll be an almost-never-ending pleasuring fight, with daily life and with my career, but I'm here ready to face it!

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