Anne Burtey (France), Jean Froment (France), Atanas Kostadinov(Bulgaria) and Chema Martin (Spain) have worked, or are currently working, on Marie Curie projects in Norway. They all agree that it is a pleasant place to work in spite of the long, dark winters!
Norway is a leader country in molecular biology and much more
Martin and Burtey have both benefited from a Marie Curie Intra-European Fellowship (IEF), allowing them to move to Bergen. Burtey works on a project increasing understanding of cellular communication networks, whereas Martin is studying the embryonic development of priapulid worms. They both chose Norway as it is a leader in molecular biology. What’s more, Martin especially wanted to work with Andreas Hejnol, a group leader at the Sars International Centre for Marine Molecular Biology “We met before the end of my Ph.D in Barcelona. I wanted to work with him and he had the opportunity to hire me”. Kostadinov benefited from a Co-funding Action (COFUND) to work in Trondheim on a project about design and verification of new computer (processor) architectures. The opportunity arose when as his scientific coordinator knew about his educational background and experience in digital design.
Although the country is not part of the EU, administration doesn’t require a lot of paperwork
Having benefited from an Initial Training Network (ITN), Froment is currently at the Norwegian Institute for Water Research to work on a project using biological and chemical tools to identify chemicals in water samples. To register as a PhD student, he had to provide the University of Oslo with the originals of his Bachelor and Master degrees, including details of the courses that he took, his CV, a covering letter and some contacts for references. According to Martin, “The application process went very smoothly” and he adds that “Applying for a Marie Curie in Norway is quite similar to applying in any other country in the European Union. There were no translations to provide”. Burtey echoes “I didn’t need official translations. The administration of the University of Bergen was very helpful”. Kostadinov adds nevertheless that he had to provide a translation of his PhD diploma from Bulgarian to English, along with two of his research papers for his application (postdoctoral programme).
A work contract is very helpful for obtaining a residence permit
Our Fellows had no difficulties obtaining a residence permit. “Thanks to my work contract, I had an unlimited residence permit,” says Martin. For Froment, “it took two months to obtain a work and residence permit in Norway”, but as an EU citizen, everything went pretty smoothly. Kostadinov, who moved from Bulgaria with his wife, had to provide the translation of their birth certificates, which were required for the residence and work permits.
High accommodation prices
Froment points out that it can sometimes be difficult to find accommodation in Norway. To him “the first months of my stay were difficult because of the high prices and the three months’ rent deposit, usually asked for by landlords”. Martin and Burtey feel lucky that they received a lot of help from their administrations, especially for accommodation.
Research is well supported and valued
All our Fellows agree on the fact that the research process is well-supported in Norway. Martin very much enjoys working in this country because “research is valued the same as any other job in Norway. We have the rights and obligations of any other worker, and I think this helps me to focus only on my work”. Froment has also been struck by the working process in Norway “I was surprised how everyone in the institute is treated equally and how everyone is, by default, trusted. I quickly had responsibilities and if someone has an opinion to share (no matter if the person is an intern or a researcher for example), he/she will be listened to”. He adds with amusement “However a drawback is the possibility of being stuck in an endless discussion during a meeting”.
Quality of life and work
Martin feels lucky to work in the Sars Centre in Bergen, as he can access vessels and a marine station where he can find most of the animals necessary for his work. He highlights that “these facilities are difficult to find elsewhere, in particular in continental Europe, when one has to travel several kilometres to the closest marine station”. Froment stresses the good balance between work and private life and says “I really enjoy the freedom I have to manage my time as I want and the fact that here, having a life (meaning doing activities) outside of the lab is regarded as a positive”. All of our Fellows agree the nature is amazing and contributes to the quality of life.
Be prepared for long, dark winters!
All of our Fellows have lived or are living an amazing experience in Norway. Nevertheless they advise future Fellows (and those from southern countries) wanting to come to Norway to keep in mind that winters are exceptionally dark and long. But, as Froment says, “Don’t be afraid of the cold or the dark during winter, we get used to it and you will miss it if you spend a winter somewhere else!” Convinced? Then what are you waiting for?!