The art of moving to the US for a postdoc (as a Marie Skłodowska Curie global fellow)

About 2 months ago, the latest round of successfully funded Marie Skłodowska Curie fellows has been announced, and some might soon start to plan their move abroad. My move one year ago was spiked with some unforeseen obstacles. But even without those presumably rather unique incidents, there are quite a few things I wish I’d known before. With that in mind, I’ve put together some helpful information on the administrative side of planning your stay. Since I am on a Global Fellowship to the USA, this post is especially geared towards those in the same situation. I hope that large parts can also be useful for fellows going to other countries and postdocs receiving a different kind of funding, though. So here you go!

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We Stand in Solidarity with Scientists Across the Globe

Two weeks ago, I came back to the US after my holiday trip to Germany and France. This moment when you stand in front of the frosty immigration officer who makes you press all your fingers onto the dirty glass of the fingerprinting scanner, takes a webcam photo of your travel-exhausted face, and then scrutinizes your papers. This moment alone always makes me feel like an illegitimate intruder. But of course, it always goes well for me. This last time the immigration officer, still with her poker face on, noticed that my visa would run out in 3 months. Yes, I said hurriedly, I need to reapply. Ever wondered why they make you do this, the officer asked. I looked at her, slightly alarmed. To make a shitload of money out of you, she said, looked up, and smiled a friendly smile. I also smiled, relieved. We both laughed, and that is how I re-entered the United States of America.

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A Postdoc’s Tale of Loss and Search

We PhD students and postdocs frequently move around the world, often in 2- to 3-year intervals. That is wonderful, people say, and I would not disagree. But we also have to face personal, psychological, administrative, financial, or professional obstacles each time we fly into a new life.

I’ve moved to three new countries so far. And I am currently in the process of moving to the fourth, namely from my first postdoc in Paris to my second in Philadelphia. So I’m taking the opportunity to share my experiences, starting with a story that Kafka would probably be proud of. It’s the story of how the post’s loss of my visa and passport resulted in me still eating baguette instead of burgers (and it’s developing into a personal, psychological, administrative, financial, AND professional obstacle, despite the fact that being forced to continue drinking wine in sunny Paris is not the worst fate in the world).

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