girl travel

H-WORK across Europe: from Castellón to Bologna, the self-reported story of a PhD student

by Mabel San Román, Universitat Jaume I

My name is Mabel San Román, I am a PhD student and member of the WANT Research Team (UJI Team) from Spain.

Last year, for two months (September-November 2021) I had the opportunity to do a PhD research mobility in the research group “Human Factors, Risk and Safety” at the University of Bologna, Italy.

Yes, it is a requirement from the university, but it is also a great opportunity to experience something new, learn and develop new skills. But it goes without saying that our leader Marisa Salanova and my thesis directors Susana Llorens and Cristián Coo have always encouraged and supported me to undertake this type of experiences, which helps us to create professional bonds, expand networks, get to know other group dynamics, and on a personal level, to develop skills that help us to face new challenges.

While I was there, my affiliation was with Professor Luca Pietrantoni and his research team, who gave me a warm welcome from the very first moment, taking care of me and making me feel part of the group.

I would like to thank each of them for their support, so I think it is important to mention everyone: Marco De Angelis, Davide Giusino, Jacopo Clerici, Federico Fraboni, Greta Mazzetti, Edoardo Pische, Ilaria Faiulo, Gabriele Puzzo, Francesco Millo, because thanks to the whole UNIBO team this was an unforgettable experience to me. Thank you for all the mid-morning espresso, for the lunches together, for your time and patience to explain me things related to work, to the city, to the university, to the language; for the Italian lessons on the whiteboard, for making me discover the 7 secrets of Bologna, which obviously I won’t say because it’s a secret, the walk to San Luca, which is the longest porch in the world and for taking me to eat tagliatelle, tortellini, tigelle, gelati, panini di mortadella, ravioli, lasagne, cotolette…. and I’ll stop the list because I’m getting hungry.

The stay had two objectives.

The first one related to the participation and collaboration in the tasks related to H-WORK, during which I was able to gain a more comprehensive view of the role of the project coordinator and all the WPs in which they collaborate, and to see the great degree of involvement in each one of them. In addition, I was able to participate in the Positive Stress Management intervention, an intervention developed by our team, which I was very happy to see how it has been so well received by the facilitators and the Italian test-site.

I could bring out a bit of “my creative side” – which is not much, to be honest – to develop together with other colleagues digital tips on mental health and wellbeing for the test-sites. And finally, I had the opportunity to give two lectures to different Erasmus Mundus Masters at the University of Bologna. In one I was able to talk to the students about Positive Organizational Psychology and the HERO Model (Salanova et al., 2012; 2019), and in the other one about “Public Speaking Skills”. It should be noted that these were my first experiences teaching in a class and in English. I think I did not do badly.

The second objective is related to my doctoral thesis, on which we are still working together on an article entitled: “A Multilevel Model of Compassion in the Healthcare Context”. This work was presented at the European Academy of Occupational Health Psychology conference in Bordeaux, France (July 2022). We hope to have the paper ready for publication very soon, so send us good vibes.

Finally, I think it is important to note that it was not all work.

I had the opportunity to immerse myself in the Italian culture, such as the way of doing things, the language – which I got at least a C2, I am joking -, the food (that I have already mentioned above) and the good relationships with colleagues. I have also found many similarities with Spain in the social approach and closeness, the warmth of the people and the predisposition to meet people from other places.

This has made me grow a lot on a personal level and I think that this should be an opportunity that, if you have it, do not miss, and I do not mean just to go to Italy (which I strongly recommend), but to take advantage of the good relationships that have been created between H-WORK partners and continue to promote exchanges between researchers.