Friday, August 23, 2019

My EMJD-DC Erasmus Mundus Journey

View from my apartment in Rijeka, Croatia
My Ph.D. started 19 days before my MSc. defense. :) I got the happy news that I had received the Category "A" EMJD-DC Erasmus Mundus Scholarship, while I was attending the EMDC Winter Event in Evora. I started with IST, ULisboa, Portugal, as my first university. I continued with my MSc supervisor as my Ph.D. advisor also, as he is really a great supervisor and mentor.

Following my MSc defense, my Ph.D. started smoothly. I finished all my course requirements for the first year. I also went to the University of Rijeka, Croatia, for a short-term scientific mission (STSM). It was fun, spending the summer in Rijeka. I also had the chance to visit nearby countries (Italy, Slovenia, and Serbia) by bus, for a very low price. On the other hand, my stay in Croatia was also very productive. My research work there became a core of my thesis.

Night walk from KAUST
I did 2 Google Summer of Code (GSoC) from Portugal. Once during my MSc (2014) and the other during my Ph.D. (2015). I also did an OpenDaylight internship. Then I moved to Atlanta for 7 months for an extended internship at Emory University, as a continuation of my GSoCs. When I returned from Atlanta to Lisbon, I had to apply for the Belgium visa quick since I was already in my third year and I must move to my second university (UCLouvain) in Belgium. After a short period of 4 months in Lisboa, we moved to Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium in February 2017. Later in 2017, I also spent 2 months in KAUST, Saudi Arabia, the 5th university of my Ph.D. Finally, I returned to Portugal for my 4th-year 2nd semester, December 2017. In the next 6 months, I made sure to satisfy all the thesis requirements of IST and UCLouvain, including the UCLouvain Thesis Confirmation and IST CAT. I also finished the thesis draft and moved to Emory University again before the defense. 

Évora, Portugal
I should have finished my Ph.D. before leaving Portugal last year. However, it dragged a bit longer than what I anticipated due to administrative tasks and journal acceptances that were arriving at the last minute. Consequently, in early 2019 I submitted the CRC of the last journal of my Ph.D. and also submitted the final-final version of my thesis to both universities to print.

I came back to Portugal to defend my thesis. My defense went very well, and I passed with a distinction! With the successful defense of my PhD in IST, I was already a Ph.D. (Dr. Pradeeban Kathiravelu ;) ). But as far as UCLouvain is concerned, I still had to do my public defense in Belgium. That intermittent period of almost 2 months (July - August 2019): it was complex to explain people where I stand in my Ph.D. - as both a Ph.D. student (as far as UCLouvain/Belgium is concerned) as well as a Postdoc (elsewhere). Especially an interesting conversation to those outside the EU who were not familiar with double degree programs such as Erasmus Mundus.

Brussels: Fiesta Latina with friends
Yes, EMJD-DC is a double degree. I had to defend my thesis in Portugal and Belgium.

This year, I visited Belgium twice, for my Ph.D. defenses. For my IST/ULisboa defense, I visited Belgium first before flying to Portugal (June - July). Then, of course, I visited Belgium for my UCLouvain defense (August). My time in Belgium was like time-traveling to 2017 - meeting the familiar faces after quite some time and visiting the same places all over again. My 2nd defense (i.e., the UCLouvain public defense) was on the 23rd of August 2019, exactly 7 years since my arrival to Lisbon on the 23rd of August 2012 for my MSc. A pleasant coincidence.

Since I already had the Ph.D. degree from IST, I was more relaxed during this second one. I also had ordered to print the thesis book, as per UCLouvain requirements, prior to my arrival in Belgium. I had to go and collect the printed books from the printing shop, in an extreme corner of the Louvain-la-Neuve village. A neighborhood that I had never visited before. In fact, I wasn't even aware of the existence of those neighborhoods. My UCLouvain public defense also marked the end of my life as an Erasmus Mundus student. An interesting coincidence was, I first arrived in Portugal on August 23rd, 2012 as an EMDC Erasmus Mundus masters student. I defended my thesis at UCLouvain on the very same day, after 7 years. Is the universe sending me signals already? :D
Lullwater Park, Atlanta, GA, USA

There are a few things I could have done better. For instance, looking back, I feel I should have defended the thesis before moving out of the EU. It was just defense pending, and moving away from the EU made the process much longer. Similarly, I also think I should have started writing the thesis early on, making sure the LaTex variables across my various papers do not have naming conflicts. That would have helped me when I consolidated the content from my various papers to the thesis document. But I am still happy with how everything went. During my two trips to the EU for my defenses, I also had to practice my presentation. I still managed to explore the cities a bit. It was a happy moment. But that also made me miss the EU, as my student life attached to the EU came to an end with my Ph.D. defense. Somewhat bittersweet indeed.

No comments:

Post a Comment

You are welcome to provide your opinions in the comments. Spam comments and comments with random links will be deleted.