In 2017, Smita Chakraborty applied for a PhD position as a Marie Curie Fellow at Lund University in theoretical particle physics. Being accepted for this position not only meant experiencing a new life chapter in Sweden, but also earning one of the most recognized positions in the world of scientific research.
Her previous studies included a MSc in Physics from IIT Bhubaneswar and a bachelor of science in Physics from Jadavpur University in India. Therefore continuing her postgraduate studies in the nordic region of the world was a completely new experience.
During her time in Lund, Smita was involved with the PhD student association, eventually becoming their chairperson. Holding this position allowed her to network and better understand the rights and possibilities for international PhD students. However, understanding how the Swedish university system works and her role as a PhD student was often an individual process, leading to feelings of loneliness among many PhD students.
“Student unions are active and create fun activities to meet other PhD colleagues. Lund International Citizen Hub was also helpful by sharing key information regarding general questions about living in Sweden,” Smita says.
Understanding general services such as healthcare, housing, and different types of public organizations in Sweden can be challenging during the first months of arrival. Smita believes that sharing this information in a guide before arrival could make the process smoother and help students get around better.
Regarding her career and future after her PhD studies, Smita initially only considered academic research. However, the limited number of academic positions and the need to look for opportunities in other countries made her consider other career paths. Through the explorative process of looking for new work opportunities, she found out about the MSCA Talent Matchmaking and the Vinnova Call “Attract, integrate and retain international excellence.” Through this process, she was matched with ScientifyRESEARCH, a company based in Stockholm that facilitates searching for research grants for researchers easier by curating a grant database.
The visa process and settlement in Sweden were not smooth, but Smita was able to start working while resolving the migration office issues. Now, Smita is using all the skills she developed during her years in academia in her new job. She is living her life in Lund and is happy with the decision to switch to Sweden.
“It’s important to keep an open mind to new opportunities and explore new career paths in both worlds, private companies, and academic institutions.”
Smita’s story highlights the importance of keeping an open mind to new opportunities and exploring new career paths in both worlds: private companies and academic institutions. While the academic world may seem like the obvious choice for those with a passion for research, private industry can offer equally rewarding career opportunities. Smita’s journey shows that by exploring different paths, one can find the right fit for their skills and interests.