5 reasons why I joined ADDAL

5 reasons why I joined the Doctoral Association of Alsace (ADDAL)

by Shilpy Joshi, PhD & member of the association

The Summer of 2011 in Amsterdam was unusually warm, perhaps for it to remind me of how much i missed to be in France, the country where I had started my higher studies abroad for the first time.

While finishing my research internship in Amsterdam, I came across IGBMC’s PhD programme for International Students in Strasbourg. I was fortunate to be selected for this fellowship program as it gave me a chance to move back to France. I was excited about pursuing my PhD in this well-equipped pioneering research institution.

Luckily, my already-attained basic French knowledge had helped me to settle down. Nevertheless, a different cultural environment & tedious administrative processes did appear to be a bit of struggle for some of my international peers. As I progressed in my PhD, I started to get busier and stay longer in the lab. Being an international researcher, I felt extra pressure to perform well in order to succeed in my research. This led to initially only work and little play. Less recreational & socializing activities was actually counterproductive until I realized that I was turning into the solitary person that I never was. 

Thanks to the emails from the doctoral association of Alsace – or Association des docteurs et doctorants d’Alsace (ADDAL) – I learned about their active & dynamic community that could help me fulfill other aspects of life in a foreign land. Initially, I attended a few of their events and felt this made a difference to my approach, by enriching the work-life balance. Later I decided to join this organization as an active member to participate in organizing events and creating a network of PhDs & professionals.

Based on my experience, here are five good reasons to join this association :

1. Socialise with like-minded people : ADDAL’s conviviality events help you connect with PhDs from diverse fields and nations. It is an excellent platform for cultural exchange especially for an international student to know the French culture & vice versa. It opens up your ideas to interdisciplinary fields outside your own while engaging in fun activities like bowling, game rooms, language exchange & outdoor activities like kayaking. For me, ADDAL was one networking association to meet new people, make new friends & maintain an active social life.

2. Get your life going : When you are new in a city or country, you know fewer people. Settling in has its own challenges. Our InterDoc committee has done extensive research to put together a help book for new students in Strasbourg. The booklet contains information about all administrative tasks like getting registered, opening a bank account, finding an accommodation, getting health insurance and the list goes on. The InterDoc committee can also provide you one to one help for the queries that did not get answered with the booklet. In short, the InterDoc committee is here to understand a foreign researcher’s life in Strasbourg and help meeting with others in the same boat.

3. “Parlez-vous Français?”: Spending a major part of your life in France as a Ph.D. or postdoc, should also involve knowing the culture and the language. ADDAL organizes free-of-cost language exchange “Speak it up” events for those of you good at English, help French students improve their English and broaden the career avenues. In return, you can learn to speak or further improve your French. Learning another language also transforms our brain and enriches our understanding of different cultures. Speaking a foreign language is as fashionable as carrying a smartphone today in this globalized world. So, please do not restrict yourself to doing only science when you are away from your homeland even though you plan to return one day. Living the language is the best way to learn any language. So this is your chance!

4. Proactively plan your career: As PhDs and young postdocs, we are often all-too engaged in our world of discovery and experimentation. It is important to step away from time to time to look at your career and pick the direction you wish to drive it into. Some people observe and engage at a personal level to weigh the career directions, while for the others, the dilemma of staying or leaving academic research stays at play for most time in their Ph.D. ADDAL’s career development team not only brings to you the career story of those who have transitioned into the industry, but also those who have succeeded in academic research. The Career Development committee organizes monthly career dinners with eminent professionals from industry & academia, networking apéros, annual career forums, company visits with the aim of helping you build your network and find your career mentors.

5. Make your voice heard: ADDAL representatives are part of student bodies at the doctoral schools & university such as EuroDoc, Confédération des Jeunes Chercheurs (CJC). You can also participate with your ideas & concerns influencing the doctoral school policy. 

While you make your life happen and your research progress, you can also acquire soft skills that would be indispensable for PhDs seeking to make a career in industry or want to be a research investigator. You will need to communicate with a lot of people, train staff, ask fundings, manage budgets, be highly organized while doing multiple tasks and finally be a leader. Life will change after a PhD. and you will need these skills to excel in whatever you do. One place where you can acquire these skills and hone them is the Association of Doctoral candidates and Doctors of Alsace. 

I hope by now you are impatient to know how to join our association and be actively involved. In case you have more questions about the association and would like to meet the people behind the scenes, you are welcome to contact us by mail (at addal@unistra.fr) and will send you back an invitation to join our next monthly meeting.

Hope to meet you inside the association 🙂