In September and October me and my boss held interviews for a ‘plant-insect’ PhD position that was available in our group. This was already the second round of advertising and interviewing – I must add – as the first round of advertising earlier last year yielded no suitable candidates.
On October 14th, after having had two interviews, we offered the position to Lina, who accepted our offer very soon after. Lina is from Latin-America, but already lived in the EU. In fact, she had studied in my beloved Wageningen, and had – like me – finished her internship with one of my former supervisors at the Netherlands Institute of Ecology. It goes without saying that he gave her a very high recommendation, and I deeply value his opinion on the matter, but Lina just so happened to also be the best candidate, judging by the two interviews and her references combined. (This may sound like a very personal bias from my side, but I promise, the Netherlands, Wageningen University and/or the NIOO-KNAW are really not a prerequisite to working with me)
The next part would be employing her in Germany. We thought it would be easy to get her here, given that she was only a train ride away… Well, today marked the end of a long and at times quite stressful back-and-forth between Lina, the German consulate in the Netherlands, the HR department of the university here, and our own department. Of course everyone wanted to help, but it seemed that no one really knew how, because of the pandemic. Lina simply had to wait her turn for certain embassy appointments, that were all much delayed, and all available slots were constantly booked out. For a long time, we had no clue how long this was going to take. As an interim solution, Lina was kindly employed on a temporal contract by my former department at the NIOO-KNAW in the Netherlands. This resulted in some stress relief (even this was not as straightforward as it sounds here, but it worked). All in all, it was a wonderful thing to see how much kindness and understanding there can be when a pandemic is affecting us all. Having a common enemy is a good way to grow together. Last week, Lina arrived in Freising and went straight into quarantine. Understandable, but also a lonely and horrible way to start a new episode. Yesterday, her post-quarantine test came back negative, which meant that today – after me completing a self test as well – we could finally meet.
It was so good to finally meet her, and show her around our department (even though only a small part of our people were in office), and of course to get to know her a bit more than via Zoom. It is just not the same, well not for me at least. The weather gods were clearly also pleased with Lina’s arrival, as the clouds of the past weeks slowly disappeared and made way for clear blue skies and lots of sunshine. We took advantage of this good weather and took the 30-minute or so walk to our greenhouse facilities, which are located a bit outside of Freising. After six months, she could finally meet ‘her’ plants. It is going to be strange to hand over the helm, as I have gotten to love these plants quite a bit, but I guess we’ll navigate together on the last leg of this trip towards their final position in our upcoming field experiment.
Just before we parted ways at the end of the afternoon, she handed me a present she brought from Wageningen. This is the second unexpected present from the Netherlands in two days time. Bringing a new Dutch colleague a piece of quality Dutch cheese and drop (= licorice) from his own country is a very nice way to start off. I never thought I’d miss my country, but these presents showed me that I do appreciate ‘home’ more than I had imagined.
Thanks Lina, for persevering all these months, for your trust, and for your kindness. I am looking forward to working together very much!