Some time ago, I received the following question from a reader (edited for anonymity):
I have just found your blog and I am starting to read. I don’t know exactly why, by I want to directly write to you a message.
I am from Poland (City X) and from this academical year I am PhD student on my University (I work with XXX) . But the true is I have always dreamed to do the PhD but abroad. But after this one year hear I am really worry about the future, the work possibility or since career. I haven’t got any foreign trainee or something like that, so I don’t know how it looks there, maybe in Poland the possibility after the PhD especially for the woman aren’t good? I want to go abroad because I think it is batter for my language and experience, I don’t have a husband or kids:P so I can travel, during this year my family have needed me closer, that the reason I have stayed here, but know I want to go ahead.
Do you have any advices? What do you think about PhD for woman, after finished it? Its possible to combine it in the future with child, family so on?? (On my University I know the women=the mums = the good sciences, but I see that for men a lot of things are easily and they can achieve more in the shortest time…. but on the other hand I am used to say, impossible is nothing;))
How is your feelings?
From this question, I see there are two main topics: the need for international experience, and combining an academic career with motherhood.
- The need for international experience: In short, my advice here is that international experience is a nice-to-have element on your CV, but it is not a must. If you plan to build your career in Poland, and you want to be near your family, then going to do the PhD abroad is not a must. If you want to get some exposure to another university and other ways of thinking, then going abroad does not need to look like spending your entire PhD abroad. You can apply for a short exchange during your PhD as well, and use such a short stay at a different university to build a network internationally. There are many more options than having to go abroad for the PhD in its entirety!
- Motherhood in academia: As an academic mom, I hope I can show that it is possible to combine an academic career in two countries with raising my daughter (and I consider myself quite an involved mom). Yes, if you look at my publications, there is a drop in 2018 (my daughter was born in 2017 so I had 3 months of maternity leave afterwards and then worked part-time until my daughter was one) and in 2020 (COVID-19 and not having childcare). And, if I may go and stand on my soapbox, the academic culture that is tailored to white cis able-bodied men without care responsibilities is a culture that may leave out many bright minds. So, the only way we can change and challenge this culture is by showing up and being part of the fabric of academia, and slowly changing the culture towards a more inclusive one that can welcome more diversity.