I joined EMES in the very first days of my PhD. Coming from the Middle East, it was the first time I was leaving home to live abroad, and I arrived in Belgium in the middle of the COVID Pandemic in October. I was staying alone all the time in my room; one can imagine it was not at all a pleasant situation.
There was a lot I had to get adapted to, with the pressure of starting a new academic life. PhD students and professors at the EMES Doctoral school were the first people I virtually met, other than my supervisors and a neighbour, but they were so friendly and supportive that it felt like I was not anymore new here. Every single person, no matter their position—a university chair, a highly experienced professor, or a third-year PHD students—all were willing to help, not only by guiding me in my PhD career, but also sharing their personal difficulties and solutions to manage each, at a time when I knew no one to refer to.
My impression was that it didn’t really matter for anyone how inexperienced and new I was in this community; people would still treat me as if we had known each other for a long time. Even during the session when I presented very initial thoughts on my PhD project and requested feedback, both professors and students supportively walked me through my next steps just like they would do for themselves.
The great thing was that neither the communications nor the support ended with a simple 2-day course. The follow-up sessions, getting together for different PhD empowerment workshops and preparatory sessions for the EMES Conference, helped me get to know more and more people in the same field as me—some of whom were going to meet in Teruel, Spain.
The EMES Conference was wonderful as we could finally meet many people in person, people who had turned into friends after a year-time. It completed the whole experience, bringing together many great experts in social enterprise from different countries, great panels, plenary sessions and workshops, and also fun events like ham-tasting, museum visits, and wonderful Spanish music at the gala dinner. I believe that for me, EMES was an all-included PhD package with lots of amazing academic and non-academic experiences.