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Jun 7, 2011


Next week will mark our first anniversary of moving to Osaka. There is no denying that this was a big event, and I thought this anniversary was a nice opportunity to play a little game with you. Let's talk perspectives. Where were we one, five, ten years ago? Where might we be one, five, ten years from now?

-10 years

Ten years ago, in June 2001, I was living in Lyon, France. I was one year out of high school, and half-way through two years in classes préparatoires. The Wikipedia article indicates that "the amount of work required of the students is exceptionally high". This is one way to put it, indeed. The focus of these two years was to get admitted into a decent engineering school, and six days a week were focused on mathematics, physics, and so on.

This left very little time to project myself a few years down the road, but I did not mind. I was also listening to a fair amount of music, and somehow most of it came from Ireland. I had no idea back then, but a few months later, I was to meet the lovely person who eventually became my wife.

-5 years

Fast forward five years, to June 2006. I am now living in Dublin, Ireland, and I just got married! I am a few months into my PhD, and things start to look clearer in terms of career choices: I want to work as a researcher.

A few weeks ago, I have submitted an article for a conference in Italy. Of course, I still have no idea that, during this conference, I am going to meet a Japanese colleague who will invite me to visit his research lab if I ever come to Japan, (and that this is the lab I will work in, a few years later!).

Even though I am quite busy with work, I still have time for two of my hobbies: photography and travels. Time to upgrade my gear and buy a digital reflex camera to use with the lens I had from the film camera I had been using for some time.

-1 year

June 2010. I am packing all my belongings, and I am about to move to Osaka, Japan. Since finishing my PhD, I had been working in the same university (though on new projects). Discussions with senior colleagues made it clear that having an international component in my career would be a long-term advantage. One aspect of this is participation in international projects, but longer periods abroad would also be a good idea (even to come back to Ireland afterwards).

I have been aware of this for some time, but there was no real timeline for this. I even rejected some opportunities that did not seem adequate. Everything changed with the subprime mortgage crisis and resulting global financial meltdown. It became increasingly clear that my university would not have the necessary funds to renew my existing contract (ending in May 2010), and that options in Ireland, and more generally in Europe, would be temporarily limited. As I neeeded to non-EU experience anyway, the wisest option was to use this opportunity to kill two birds with one stone. Let's avoid unemployment and enhance my profile with a single career move.

I started to consider international options some time ago, mostly in Japan (as I have been working with colleagues for some time, and really liked the country on my numerous visits) and in North America. In March, it became clear that my best options was a "mobility fellowship", that would see me move to Osaka for 18 months, and later return to Dublin for a year.

I accepted the award (this is not the type of opportunity that you reject, crisis or not), arranged for my visa, and booked my flights. My wife and I will move in our Japanese apartment on June 16th, 2010.


It has now been a year since we moved to Japan, and I do not regret this choice.

Obviously, living here is a constant cultural shock (more so than moving from France to Ireland, and even though I had spent a total of several months here on previous visits), but it still is something I am happy to experience.

Despite moving to the other side of the world, the crisis has followed us. Our budget is tighter than expected (being paid in euro, on a scale fixed before 2009, means losing about 20% of your "real" income once in Japanese yen). This limits our travels around Japan, but we live in such a beautiful and culturally-rich region that we can still enjoy ourselves! I am still using the same digital camera, and taking more photos than ever. I even managed to get myself some new lenses for added fun.

Another consequence of the crisis is that I am not sure where my next contract will take us. I have started submitting applications, but it will be at least a few months before things start to get clearer. There are opportunities here in Japan, as well as in Australia and North America (and maybe even a few in Europe), so we will see what happens.

+1 year

By June 2012, it will have been six months since our return to Ireland. The reverse cultural shock is said to be sometimes stronger than what occurred at the time of moving abroad, so we will see how it goes. Dublin surely is very different from Osaka, but there are many things to like about the city, and we really had a good time over the years we have spent there before.

Hopefully my work situation will be clear by then, and I will already have signed my future contract. The big question, of course, is where that will take us.

In a worst-case scenario, I will still be looking for a new position, and most of my free time will be focused on looking for opportunities, preparing proposals, and submitting applications. I really hope to avoid this but I know that, in any case, I can count on my wife's support, so I am confident we can work through this if needed.

+5 years

If everything goes according to plan, my next contract (starting in the second half of next year) will be longer than my previous ones, and I will not have to worry about employment for some time. I will be able to focus my energy on research (and teaching, depending on the position), and to work on ideas I had to put aside for the time being.

It will also mean a little more time outside work: more photography, more writing, and kids running around in the house. This sounds like a very nice plan, doesn't it?

Of course, I still have no idea where this is going to take place...

+10 years

It is extremely difficult to imagine how things will be in ten years. Looking back ten years ago, I had no idea I would be a researcher, that I would be living in Japan, or even that I would spend so long in Ireland before that.

If I really had to guess, I would say that we will probably be somewhere in Europe, most likely Ireland or the United Kingdom, and maybe with more kids running around.

In terms of work, I still see myself in research, hopefully with a long contract. In an ideal world, I would have my own research team, and would continue to have great collaborators across disciplines as well as across continents.

Your turn!

I hope you enjoyed this post. I am looking forward to reading about your own perspectives in the comments below, or in a post on your blog, in a video response on your YouTube channel, etc. The choice on the method is all yours, but I am counting on you.

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