Shipol Airport, Asterdam. Two hours left before my connection to Bergen. I am not coming back home from a business or leisure trip this time, but from a four-month exchange stay in Madrid.
Research fellows at the University of Bergen are encouraged to spend from three to six months abroad to get in touch with another research group and work in a different environment. During the MoDELS 2010 conference in Oslo, my supervisor and I discussed the possibility of my exchange stay with Juan de Lara and Eshter Guerra from the Autonomous University of Madrid. The idea of staying some months in the south of Europe after three years in the North was appealing to me, and Juan and Esther seemed positive as well. Eventually, the idea became a plan, and I came to Madrid in February.
I lived in the centre of Madrid, which happens to be the centre of Spain as well, historically speaking. My flat was located 200 meters away from the so-called Kilometre zero, the ancient starting point of all the measurements in Spain. I loved the atmosphere of the city centre, incredibly lively and dynamic. I even loved the noise that you hear in the bars… Yes, the noise of people speaking and toasting and laughing and enjoying life, something that reminded me a bit of Italy and that I missed so much in Norway, where people are usually scared of speaking too loud or too much.
Juan and Esther have been very kind to me. They helped me with the accommodation and the transportation, provided me with an office and a workstation, introduced me to the campus and the city. It has been a rewarding experience to work with them, both scientifically and personally, and I sincerely hope that we will continue the cooperation in the future.
But my stay in Madrid would not have been the same without the people I met there. Thanks to Serena, I got in touch with a group of people from Italy, France and Spain. It was a pleasure to meet Federica, Antonino, Mathilde, Vani, Ysa, Clara and Jose. But above all, it was fantastic to meet Lucia, Teresa and Daniele; lovely people, who treated me like a close friend since the first day we met. I wish most of Italians were people like them; I would consider moving back to Italy.