Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Nello studio (At the office)

For the past two weeks in Padua, I have been out and about, settling in, meeting with teachers at participating schools, setting things up, doing errands, etc. With brief stops in and out, I have felt rather isolated at the university. Maybe there is some sort of threshold for meeting people such that, before you reach the threshold, you feel alone in a new place.

Today, somehow, my perspective changed. The morning started with a "coffee-meeting" (tea for me; I resisted the hot chocolate!) with my mentor here. I walked into our usual cafe, and felt I knew the guy there well enough -after two weeks of ordering tea and pastries- to ask if "my friend had arrived yet". Happily, he recognized me and knew who I was talking about.

I subsequently met with the previously unknown colleague in Cognitive Psych. who has been setting up the cognitive tests that our participants will complete on a computer. I learned all about the tests, tried them out myself, and tried scoring. My scope of work contacts quickly widened by one, as later I was able to ask this guy for help with my own technology issues.

Related to technology, it may sound elementary, but being able to print from my very own computer, in the department, was a highlight of my day today. Simple things like printing/making copies here seem to depend on other people and take more time than one would normally think. Somehow, printing directly from my "visiting professor" office gave me a sense of place.

Finally, I met yet another colleague who has been helping to arrange a "seminario" (presentation) I will do in the department next week. She was so friendly, interested, and excited about our research and the upcoming talk! It was really encouraging. She even told me to stop by anytime. A nice offer for a visiting researcher with a very small circle of contacts.  

So, simple things like talking to interested people, widening my circle of acquaintances, and knowing people in town, made me feel happy and comfortable today in this, I'll admit, somewhat intimidating university environment. Want to see my office?

My office! 

Shared and sparse, at least there is a sunny window. Also, since no one else ever shows up,
I have plenty of space, peace, and quiet. 

To conclude, a couple of observations. A big difference between here and universities I have experienced in the US is that here, almost everyone keeps their office doors closed. No "open-door policy" in this department! In their defense, the hallways are very noisy: even I close my door or else I hear people going in and out of the bathroom all day. The problem is, walking around the department, you can't really pop in to say hi to people. 

On the other hand, most people here share offices, so when you do finally get into one, you are pretty much guaranteed to see at least two, maybe more, people. Also, people put stuff on their doors, like they do in the US: drawings made by their kids, interesting articles, flyers for events of interest, etc. This helps distinguish among all the closed doors. My office has no decor and nothing on the door, yet. However, as of today, there are quite a few piles on the desk! Data collection has commenced!   

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