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First weeks

in Athens

1st week in Athens (it's Spring Break)

Here it is! I am in the United States of America for an entire year as a postdoctoral associate at the Odum School of Ecology (University of Georgia).

I left on March 6th, 2017 from Toulouse, France and finally arrived in Athens, Georgia, 18 hours later. It was the beginning of spring break and the city was pretty much empty (as the shuttle driver said “it is so calm when the kids are gone”). Lucky for me, Robbie, one of the PhD students in my lab, came to pick me up and drive me to my house, 127 Burnett Street. My house is in Five points, a neighborhood centered on the intersection of S Milledge Av., S Lumpkin Street and Milledge Circle. There is a cute fire station at the corner and many local businesses: The Five Point Bottle Shop, which have a great choice of French wines, and the Independent Bakery, where you can find some of the best baguettes in town. This neighborhood is perfect for a French girl ! There are also a great bookshop (Avid bookshop) and some nice cafés, restaurant and bars. I met my neighbor, Dagmar, who is a counselor at UGA and a photographer on her free time. She travels all around the place and takes amazing pictures of abandoned houses and places in Southern U.S. I can’t wait to go with her and see unique places of Forgotten Georgia.

It is really a nice neighborhood and it's only 10 minutes away from work and not very far away from Downtown Athens...

Five points fire station ©AthensClarkeCounty

Indeed, downtown Athens' most famous attribute is having more bars per capita than any other city in the country. There are no less than 80 bars in a single square mile. Athens is also known for it’s music scene and is well known for being the home of the band R.E.M.

During this first quiet week (remember, spring break), I woke up to the sound of unknown birds, visited downtown Athens, met 2 or 3 persons in my department (again with spring break, the department was almost empty). It was a perfect way to get use to the city and the university. I also took a walk through Milledge Avenue, the street where most of the fraternity/sorority Houses are. Like in an american movie, I saw entire groups of girls or boys do formal dining parties, mud fight, beer pong or concert with red cups all over the loan.

Official 1st week

My official first day at the Odum School of Ecology was a week after. I met for the first time my host, Vanessa Ezenwa, and we immediately had a meeting to discuss my project. We also talked about other collaborations and this is how on my second day, I was already involved in a review project on animal social network and parasitism with two other persons in my team. It feels really great to be part of such a dynamic research team !

Everyone is so nice ; to welcome me we went to Cali n' Tito, a great mexican restaurant next to the lab (most famous for their fish tacos !).

Awesome facts about the Odum School of Ecology (OSE) and the University (UGA):

- Every Tuesday, we have seminars with invited speakers who lead inspiring research projects in ecology (of infectious diseases or not). We can also meet them in a less formal way during our team meeting. It's a great opportunity to ask them questions about their research but also their career.

- Every Friday morning, it's coffee hour ! Each week a team is providing food and coffee for the entire department so we can all meet together at least once a week.

- Every first Friday of the month, the graduate students bought beers for every one so we can gather in the courtyard to chat and bond with our coworkers from different teams.

- The campus is super dog-friendly probably because of the veterinary school. So a lot of students bring their dogs and walk them on campus. Some of them are even fosters for Guide dogs so they bring them in class rooms.

During this official first week, I also had the opportunity to join the Center of Ecology of Infectious Diseases (CEID) and participated in an one-day retreat at the Botanical Garden. It was again a great opportunity to introduce myself to the department.

Although there are no other postdocs in my team, there are many of them in the rest of the department. My host, Vanessa, introduced me to them and this is how I met Ana, Toby, Avshin, Navideh, and Paula who comes from Portugal, England, Iran and Argentina. I am so excited to be part of such diverse group of postdocs !

During the next few weeks:

- I was invited by Ana to a diner with some international friends. Representatives of Germany, France, Portugal, Jamaica, Argentina, USA, Greece gathered around the same table to eat a delicious meal and drink great wines ! What more could one want ?

- I tried Hot Yoga with Abigail, a colleague at OSE. That was the hardest yoga session of my life. The principle is to do yoga in a room maintained at a temperature of 95-105 degrees Fahrenheit (35-40 °C). Although it was very hard, I also never felt that relax ! Plus it was Puppy Adoption Day, so there was an adorable amstaff/pitbull 3-months-old puppy in the lobby. I almost went home with a furry friend !

- I discovered one of the local breweries of Athens: Creature Comforts ! The beers are very good, it is a pet-friendly environment and the concept is very funny. Because they can't directly sell beers, you actually pay for a tour of the brewery and you can "taste" 5 beers ! So every customers has a plastic bracelet showing how many beers they already have drunken.

- I experienced some severe weathers: Pouring rain and thunderstorm (it was so severe that I had to stay at home). The alerts included even tornadoes but they apparently really go near Athens. After that my neighbor teach me some common practice and advised me to download a forecast app that would warn me even during the night. She also showed the safest place in the house I am supposed to go in case of severe weathers.

- I almost ended up with a foster dog. My neighbors were desperately looking for a house for a dog from the local shelter. They found a foster family before I could crack.

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