• Brain City Ambassdor Anna Raysyan at BAM

    Guest contribution: “Berlin likes the bold!”

Brain City Ambassador Anna Raysyan has been living in Berlin for 3,5 years now. She is a PhD student at the Bundesanstalt für Materialforschung und -prüfung (BAM). As our guest author she shares her experiences as a newcomer to the Brain City Berlin. 

My field of work is based on immunoanalytical techniques for the control of toxic compounds in the environment and in human health. During my education at the Department of Pharmacy at I.M. Sechenov First Moscow State Medical University, I was inspired by the beauty of science and by the influence scientific research has on our lives. I have always believed that if you want to learn more, you have to travel and share your knowledge with others. Albert Einstein biography is great example for that. 

During my education in Moscow, I had the chance to get an internship at Ghent University, Belgium. I d applied without hesitation and got the position. At Ghent University I had one of the best times of my life. I was surrounded by students from all over the world. The internship helped me to find new friends and improve my language skills. I returned to Moscow with warm memories and successful research, the results of which I used as part of my thesis and later published in my first article. 

During my last year at university, I was pretty sure that I wanted to continue my education. But where? I asked myself a lot of questions: Where can I integrate fast? Which city will accept me as I am? Where will I feel equal as women? Where will I feel free? Where will I be surrounded by people from all over the world? Which city is affordable? Where will I feel as comfortable as in Moscow? Where I will be able to reach every destination by public transport? From where can I travel everywhere easily? Where can I feel the West European and the East European culture at the same time? Which city has a uniquely dense and diverse range of academic and research institutions? Etc. The answer was: Berlin! 

In Berlin I feel free to share my visions

In the next step I travelled to Berlin to find out whether it was my city or not. I instantly fell in love with the city’s special vibes. In Berlin you can be whoever you are, nobody will judge you. I then started an internet search for PhD positions. I also asked my friends and supervisors. Just when I almost gave up finding a suitable and interesting project, I stumbled upon a scientific article about immunoassay by Dr. rer. nat. habil, Rudolf J. Schneider from the Bundesanstalt für Materialforschung und -prüfung (BAM) in Berlin. I was curious why the Federal Institute of Material Testing was working with immunoassay. I asked my professor at Moscow State University if he knew about it. He confirmed that there was a group working with immunoanalytical techniques at BAM. I immediately applied for the open poison there and was invited for an interview. 

I integrated into the working process at BAM faster than I had expected, due to my colleagues and the friendly working atmosphere. I am grateful to my supervisor for the scientific freedom he offered me. I was free to give new ideas into the project and share my visions. I never met any judgment or pressure. This scientific freedom gave me the opportunity to develop an easy to use and fast method to determine the endocrine disruptor Bisphenol A in plastic. I then used the same technology to determine medicines in human breast milk. I also got the chance to present the results of our studies at various conferences. 

As a woman I am constantly inspired by my female colleagues who are successful in almost every area of science at BAM and therefore debunking the stereotype that innovative research is reserved for male scientists only. I believe that everybody is equal before science. 

Learn to speak! People in Berlin are friendly

As for living in Berlin I must say, I never felt uncomfortable here. But a big city like Berlin has its disadvantages, of course, which will make you struggle. 

One of them being that is very complicated to find a place to live here. Moreover, officials will ask for documents which you probably never heard of before, such as the “SCHUFA-Auskunft” provided by the official credit investigation company. Luckily I soon found a room in the Studentendorf Adlershof, and later an apartment of my own.

Being a rather shy person, I have also been rather hesitant in speaking German because my German was not very good. Big mistake! Speak! Wrong or right, people around here are friendly and will help you. I remember that after living in Berlin for two weeks, I got lost in an S-Bahn station. It was quite late and the station was empty. There was just an elderly couple standing at the platform. My train had been cancelled and I needed to know, how to get to the bus station. I went to the old man and tried to explain in English what I was looking for. He did not understand. I then switched to German and he immediately felt more comfortable. He said something I did not understand, but then just took my hand and led me to the bus station. It was amazing. He encouraged me not to be shy and to try speak as much as I could, because he did not learn English. This episode just proved a line from one of my favourite German songs to be true, “Auslaender” of the band Rammstein: “Andere Länder, andere Zungen. So hab' ich mich schon frueh gezwungen. Dem Missverständnis zum Verdruss, dass Sprachen lernen muss.” (“Other countries, other tongues. I therefore had to force myself soon. In spite of the misunderstanding that one has to learn languages first.”)

Looking back I must say: All initial problems will disappear once you start feeling the city. Berlin will offer you museums, historical places, restaurants, libraries, etc. And new friends from all over the world! In Berlin you will also have the opportunity to attend a lot of different and big conferences. 

Luck always favours those who are bold. Berlin likes the bold! 


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