Cecilia, 29, is doing her doctorate at the Department for Biology of FU Berlin.
How did the idea to do your doctorate in Germany come to your mind and why did you choose the FU Berlin?
During my Master studies, I worked with stable carbon and nitrogen isotopes to analyze the diet of bats. I started researching about hydrogen because this method can be used for tracing animals´ movements and in Brazil it doesn´t exist yet. After that, I wanted to continue working on bats and the most qualified person in this field is Dr. Christian Voigt, who is based in Berlin and works at the Freie Universität Berlin. I was lucky to find out that the FU Berlin has a cooperation agreement with the scholarship program I applied for. Finally, everything ran like clockwork.
Who or what helped you concerning the preparations for your stay at the FU Berlin? Which advices were useful?
In 2015, I participated in a fair in São Paulo about doing a doctorate in Germany. There, I got a list with all the documents that are necessary to enroll in German universities and I understood how the individual doctorate and the doctoral program work. It was definitely useful to prepare all documents in advance. Besides that, I once went to the Student Services Center (SSC) of FU Berlin, where the staff was very helpful related to the documents I had to fill in.
What are your expectations for the future after graduating from FU Berlin?
Why such a difficult question? Just joking. Actually, my plan is to return to Brazil and participate in a selection process to work as a university professor. However, the problem about this is that science in Brazil is in a crisis I can´t see an end for soon. For this reason, my future is still uncertain.
Which problems or difficulties did you have to face and how did you manage them?
I can´t remember any problems concerning the university or the institute that I am part of (Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife). My current problem is the Brazilian bureaucracy in regard to the exportation of biological material. Unfortunately, the law has not been enacted yet and therefore it prevents me from continuing my work.
Furthermore, I think that my only difficulty was to find a place to live in Berlin. The housing market here is very different from the one in Brazil. The offer is big, but the demand is still bigger.
Is there any particular aspect of the FU Berlin that you really like?
The FU Berlin offers students from abroad short period courses. These are interesting for any scientist, as you learn how to develop basic and specific techniques, for example how to write a scientific article or how to hold a scientific presentation.
What do you like most about the life in Germany?
Above all, the security. Of course, Berlin as a capital has a bigger and more varied population and just because of that you should always be cautious. Nevertheless, I feel very safe using the public transport and so on. A short look over the shoulder is normally enough. In São Paulo for example, that would be completely different. In addition to that, I would say that in Berlin you can have a piece of the world within one hour of distance. The cultural program is very diverse. I even had the chance to participate in a „Festa Junina“ (translated: „June festivity“, traditional Brazilian fair).
What tip would you give Brazilians who are interested in doing a doctorate in Germany?
It is good to have basic German language skills, but not mandatory. Especially in Berlin, you can get along well with English.
In general, I would recommend being patient. In every place you go, you will find cultures that are different from the Brazilian one. Sometimes, this can be a cultural shock. In every place there are people that will help you or not. In the end, I grew fond of the ones that did good things to me, even if it were only small things. And you start to notice how much kindness itself creates kindness.
One last tip: Come and enjoy a lot of cheap and good beer!
Which is your favorite word in German?
Natürlich (of course), in Portuguese “claro”.