The Postdoc Centre was an integral part of my acclimation to our new life in Cambridge. Having followed my husband around the US (NYC, SF, and Arizona) I had some experience moving and transitioning to a new place. The thing that was always most difficult was finding a social environment and opportunities to use and grow my work skills.
Within 6 weeks of arriving in Cambridge I had submitted a CV, interviewed, and was working with the Mentoring Project at the OPdA. I met several lovely people, who have transitioned to other work around Cambridge, moved away, or are still in the office. I’ve learned new systems, new skills, and been the friendly welcome to many postdocs since August 2014. I honestly don’t know what my life would be like in Cambridge if I had not been directed to the OPdA and the Postdoc Centre.
When my husband got a position in Cambridge, I didn’t follow straight away, but decided to cross the Channel in June 2008 when my daughter was born. Knowing no one and lacking personal purpose, it was very lonely.
I knew that the chances of finding a lecturing job, similar to the one I left in France were very, VERY slim. I continued publishing papers on contemporary art and attending international conferences but I wanted to engage with the local academic environment. I definitively needed to connect with people going through similar experience. I thought this could be an opportunity to learn and help others who also left their jobs to follow their partner.
Volunteering with the Postdoc Centre gave me an insider’s view into the University system of Cambridge and allowed me to help women like me. On the back of the Newcomers and Visiting Scholars (NVS) and working closely with The Office of Postdoctoral Affairs (OPdA), I took over Cambridge connect, a group aimed at helping accompanying partners to settle professionally in Cambridge. I also started an art project to raise awareness on the situation of so many women (and some men) confronted with academic mobility. This project was shared in April 2014 among the OPdA volunteers and will be part of the May Festival of the University of Aberdeen in May 2015.
I immigrated to the UK in 2008. Originally from Hong Kong, I worked as a creative director in the advertising and the mass transit industry. I created the OPdA brand, working on signage, logos, newsletters and a prospectus. I shared my knowledge of social media and IT matters and contributed to the successful day to day operations at the office.
I started volunteering at the OPdA in January 2014. I wanted more experience within the University as my London career had been mostly in the corporate sector. Due to my media and advertising background I was involved with communications, specifically setting up the website, creating the newsletter and building the mailing list.
It was a wonderful experience, especially the camaraderie and the can-do attitude of the team. Not one day was the same. Karina Prasad, our Head of Office, encouraged us to smarten up our CVs and brush up our interview skills - most of us needed a confidence boost.
Thanks to the skills I acquired at the OPdA I got a part-time contract in Engineering to build and maintain two websites, I continued to volunteer at the OPdA until July 2015. I am now using my newly acquired IT and web skills in other departments through TES while looking for a permanent job. My experience at the OPdA has helped me secure employmwnt, I recommend it as a great career booster and a way to feel connected to the special and clever community that is Cambridge.
My husband and I moved to the UK in August 2015. As soon as I started looking for jobs I realised that it was not going to be easy. When I visited the OPdA and Cambridge Connect I realised there were others in the same situation as me. I decided that whilst I was looking for a job I could volunteer. Volunteering gave me the opportunity to get out of the house, meet new people and develop skills that could contribute to my career, allowing me to stay active professionally and show my potencial to future employers. Alejandra now has a part time job in administration.
Before I moved to Cambridge I worked as as a researcher and instructor for university students studying fashion, retail and textiles in the US. My narrow field meant it was difficult to find a job.
Volunteering at the OPdA gave me the opportunity to develop new skills. I quickly found my footing with the courses team at the OPDA, working on researcher development, assisting with funding bid writing, and coming up with new ideas for events aimed at the Cambridge postdoctoral community.
Perhaps most importantly, I have found the community aspect of volunteering to be quite meaningful. Our office is staffed with volunteers from all over the world who have come to Cambridge with their partners. We are very diverse group, yet we are all in the same boat. We have all be transplanted, and we are looking for ways to lay down new roots.
Through my volunteering at the centre I have been able to share my experiences and contribute towards the day-to-day running of the centre whilst strengthening my skills and abilities in an administrative environment.
I have met like-minded people, with similar experiences and have been very happy to help in any way I can to support a centre, which provides such valuable support to the Postdoc community.
Dr Laura Bobanovic
Alumni Project Lead
As an accompanying spouse I find volunteering to be a perfect way to learn new skills while helping others. I have done various volunteering jobs and each one of them has enriched me with new experiences and new friends.
My role at the OPdA was to lead the ‘Alumni Project’, a new initiative launched by University of Cambridge to extend alumni benefits to former postdoctoral researchers. Volunteering here has given me an opportunity to be the kind of person I want to be - dedicated and professional. Being involved in a worthy cause and having an opportunity to actively participate and gain new skills has increased my self-confidence. I have also found a paid job and potentially even my own new career in another office within the University.
The OPdA team is full of great people – we are hard working and most importantly have fun together. So come and get involved! You will make new friends and you will make a difference!
I came to England with a toddler and a baby when my partner started his 2-year research contract at the University of Cambridge. I was introduced to the OPdA through Cambridge Connect. I worked as a helpdesk administrator and on the Alumni Relations Project. This really enthralled me as I could build on my previous experiences and knowledge I gained as a president of my own alumni association.
Working for the OPdA was an experience I did not want to miss. Absolutely everybody in the team was friendly and welcoming, always happy to help and also happy to learn from each other. In the end, just before I left the office again for moving on, we launched the first big part of the Alumni project I was assigned to and I was proud to have had a share in that. Moreover, I absolutely enjoyed being part of the team.
Dr Alina Toader
Alina worked at the University of Neuchâtel on a research project about the Transnational Mobility of Academics in the Early Stages of their Careers: Transforming or Reproducing Gender Regimes? As part of her research, she conducted face-to-face interviews at the OPdA.
Arden was one of the original volunteers who helped to set up the Postdoc Centre. She was instrumental in writing the documentation for the volunteer programme, including "How to Deal with Difficult People". She researched and wrote all the sections for the website to help newcomers with information on Cambridge, i.e. schools, transportation, banking, to name a few. Before she returned home to Los Angeles, she collaborated with the Alumni and Careers offices to help postdocs receive alumni benefits after they leave the University. After spending a year in Cambridge, following her husband's sabbatical from UCLA, she is now back in California directing and actively participating with a foundation that helps foster children, schools in need, has parenting classes, works with a teenage boy's residential home in the juvenile justice system and fundraises to accomplish the various needs of the community.
Debjani assisted with Communications, dealing with designers, printers and documenting the Postdoc Centre rooms with photos and drawings. She moved to Sydney, Australia in May 2014. She is back to doing what she loves most - architecture. Debjani is working for an architectural firm that specialises in residential projects. She is busy exploring Australian architecture and soaking up the local culture.
Lisa Marie joined the Contact Team in 2014. Dealing with enquiries, room bookings and information requests. This administrative role is central to the running of the Postdoc Centre. She stepped down when she got funding for her science PhD. Lisa is undertaking her PhD in the Department of Chemistry in Cambridge.