Interview Anna Martini

Anna Martini is a Rosalind Franklin scholar who came to the Netherlands in 2013 to do her PhD in Cultural Geography. The research she has chosen to work on allows her to travel and experience another side of the world, much more often than many other PhD students. She spent 7 months in Japan, living in a shared dormitory with many foreigners. Over there, she found a way to combine her work, hobby, and passion by becoming a part-time tour guide for Italian tourists.

During her PhD time in the Netherlands, she joined the PhD council representing PhD students in her department. She also helped organizing lunch seminars within the faculty. Recently, she was part of the Sponsorship team of the PhD Day 2017. Now she is involved in organizing AESOP young academic conference and is a board member of the Italian young academics society in Groningen. Although being active in many activities, Anna amazingly manages to find time for her favourite hobby – acrylic painting, and is currently learning how to make videos and 3D projection mapping. Besides, she is assisting her cousin, an independent film maker “TRYANGLE FILMS”, to promote his movies, handle copyright issues, and coordinate with external collaborators.

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Q: What did you gain from participating in these activities?

Anna: When I was in Japan, I wanted to visit different disaster areas but did not have funding. Being a tour guide allowed me to combine my work, hobby and passion into one. I learned how local people used tourism to help them recover from disasters. I learned perspectives of the locals, for example, why some thought building a nuclear powerplant was a good idea to attract tourists. I also learned how tourists thought about the places they visited. I made lots of friends with whom I am still in touch until now. While being in the PhD council, I could make my voice heard. While doing many other activities, I gained networking and had a lot of fun. I am a type who needs to use not just one but different muscles. Before starting my PhD, I used to do many different things so if I have to work only on my research it will be really boring. I know as an academic we have to be able to write articles but I am also interested in other types of contents that are more accessible for lay audience, that’s why I am now learning how to make videos.

Q: What are your main challenges while participating in these activities and how do you overcome them?

Anna: I think time is the biggest challenge. Being in a committee means you have to attend regular meetings and there are always tasks to do after each meeting. With the PhD Day, for example, I used to think if I should quit but I continued trying to keep it on because I really liked the concept of the work. My problem is not even time management but rather a personal challenge because for me it is difficult to accept that I cannot get everything done perfectly. I always get excited easily about new activities but I have to learn how to prioritize, say no, and delegate tasks to someone else who can also complete them. Sometimes I also have to tell myself to relax and enjoy life even though there are still endless tasks to be done. Another challenge is that my family is overseas, so I also need some days off to visit them and really spend time with them, not just physically but mentally too. Handling all these require practice. It takes time but you will learn slowly. Now I try to not be involved in new activities but keep my current commitment ongoing.

Q: How do you view your future after your PhD study?

Anna: I am already looking around for postdoc positions, in the Netherlands and elsewhere. I don't necessarily think I will follow an academic career after my postdoc, but in general I would like to keep working on how to make knowledge understandable to a wider audience using media. Then, who knows what I will end up doing. I am not sure myself to be honest.

After one and a half hour of conversation with Anna, I felt like my perspective has been broadened to another degree. While some of us face a challenge in searching for our passion, Anna’s challenge seems to be the opposite – she has passion on so many different things. Nonetheless, I believe this characteristic will bring positive impact to her future.

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