5 Things no one tells you about being a Marie Curie PhD student

Being a Marie Curie PhD student is great. I mean it! You get an amazing opportunity to expand your skills and knowledge by being able to participate in endless networking events, conferences and meet-and-greets everywhere. Obviously, this is done is many different places which means you get paid to travel. Yup, they pay you to travel around, do placements, go to conferences….

It’s an amazing opportunity. You grow so much, not just because of the travel but because the main requirement for a Marie Curie fellowship is to live in a new country. So right away, you get a new postal address whether you like it or not. I guess my transitions was kinda smooth, with the normal bumps and obstacles everybody has when moving to a new country. But that’s not what this post is about. It’s about the mean, shitty things you need to put up with when getting a Marie Curie PhD. See if I’m right:

  1. The money

The money is awesome. It’s a shit load of money sufficient for a young person to go crazy and live in a 3-bedroom apartment by yourself with sauna and backyard. I guess we need to account for the country life style and taxes but even still, you can afford your own apartment and eat smoked salmon and sushi all week long. Ok, circle of honesty here – I confess that I had to hide my wallet a few times because this endless pot of sweet money can make you careless about your spendings (to keep it nice!).  But with that money comes expectations and problems, that leads me to number 2.

2. The jealousy 

Get ready for it. I’ serious. Get ready to listen to hurtful, nasty comments like “Oh, you live in that street? Of course you do, you have a Marie Curie salary!” or “Oh, you don’t wanna have drinks with us? Is it because we’re not Marie Curie, isn’t it?” People, I don’t go out with you because I don’t like you and you don’t like me either, but sure! Let’s blame it on my salary for my lack of interaction with you. Not to mention the cold shoulder you get from post-Docs (people in a higher rank than you that get paid less than you). Hey, not my fault… I wasn’t the one who decide the amount of money I should get. I just took advantage of the opportunity, you stupid morons. Why don’t you stop complaining and apply to a Marie Curie fellowship also? Oh, that’s right, you are too lazy, scary and with the ambition of a baby to just change your entire life  because of it but no problem!

     3. The lack of work friends 

This is an obvious consequence of point 2, so it really should be called point 2A. But anyway, yes! The jealousy makes it really hard to bond with other work colleagues because you never know what to say or do. You don’t wanna talk about your work too much and the amazing travel trips this job allows us because then you are showing off and being a dick. And you just don’t have the patient to put up with the other PhD students, whining about how they don’t have money to go to conferences, always needing to find travel grants, bla bla bla…. So I’m still figuring out how to connect with everybody in my lab (mainly because I thing they are just “self-centered, lazy, know-it-all, still better than any outsider with a Marie Curie salary ” people, but that has nothing to do with this!)

  4. The work expectations

Tons. And this fits all the problems above. For everyone else in your lab, you are an outsider who is paid a shit load of money to do the same job as them. So either no one is gonna help you or they are just gonna expect the maximum from you. Because you are paid good money, so you need to prove your are worthy of it. Forget the work load of a PhD student, that’s not for you. Your boss will give you the work load of 2 or 3 PhD students. Because again, you are paid more then them. So it doesn’t matter you are suppose to do the same job, your salary entitles you to more responsibility. Funny enough, it doesn’t entitle you to more holidays. But they think it does because guess what? You spend half of your time travelling around for the training weeks, and meetings, and conferences and all other events you are obliged to attend as part of your Marie Curie training around the globe. The thing is these are not holidays. Ok, I can sight seeing a bit at night, but my main focus during these trips is not to travel around, is to enrich my CV with technical and communication skills, strengthen my networking circle and just grow as a scientist and person. So, I’m not on holidays when I say I have  a training week next week. I’m imprisoned in a room all day discussing about my progress as a PhD student. But I guess this wraps up well with the jealousy point.

  5. Your boss

I really don’t  get along with my boss and I think it’s because of all things I just mentioned above. The money is a problem because he keeps rubbing it to my face “You are paid on a very high salary, you need to work more than everybody else to prove you are worthy of it” every time we have a meeting. Honestly, it puts a lot a pressure on me. I know I’ve proved my value when I was accepted to this job but there is a constant reminder I’m not good enough.

I don’t want these things to outweigh all the amazing things that I had the opportunity to experience. But they are here and they interfere with my mind, with my personal life. Because what people forget is that this is a huge responsibility, I have to constantly update and feedback to the European Union’s office, to make sure I’m on track with my deliverables. I’m more watched and judged about my progress than any other PhD programme. Because my sponsors do care about me and want me to succeed. So I don’t need all these extra problems but I’m learning how to roll with the punches.

You can’t break me, motherf*ck*rs!







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