ArcTrain visits the Harz Mountains – First retreat of the third cohort

Five months after the official start for the third ArcTrain Germany cohort, it was time for our first group retreat. The 12 ArcTrain students of the third cohort, one associated student, two ArcTrain students from Canada currently on research visits in Germany, the three PhD representatives of the second cohort, and three PIs drove to International House Sonnenberg in St. Andreasberg. We arrived around noon on Monday, 2 March, for our 2-and-a-half day retreat.

ArcTrain Snowman (Credit: Linda Thielke).

After an unusually warm and snowless winter in northern Germany, everyone was happy about the snowy scenery in St. Andreasberg (700 m a.s.l.). In celebration, a snowman was built just after our arrival. The nice location of our seminar house and the catered meals, including breakfast, lunch, coffee and cake, and dinner, contributed to the good mood of all participants. Our first seminar began on the afternoon of the first day, in which we discussed Good Scientific Practice and Becoming a Scientist. During these seminars, we had the chance to talk with Prof. Reinhard Fischer and the ArcTrain PIs about working in science, including good practice for scientific writing and citation. In this context, we also discussed scientific misconduct and other challenges scientists might be confronted with during their careers. After dinner, we enjoyed the talk of Charles Brunette (who was visiting us from McGill University in Montreal) about ArcTrain Canada. Specifically, he and the PhD students of the second cohort shared some experiences about their research stays abroad. They also gave us useful advice as to how to plan our research stays. 

Time, Life, and Career Management were the topics on the agenda of the second seminar day. The seminar concentrated mainly on two areas: career possibilities inside and outside academia and good time management practices during the PhD. In addition to lecture time, we had a lot of interactive sessions to discuss with each other how to reach our long-term career goals as well as how to balance work and private life effectively. After dinner, all PhD students met to select the new PhD representatives and responsible persons for jobs like retreat planning and social media management.

After the official seminar part, everyone had the chance to meet in the small house bar to play board games and to chat with the fellow students and PIs. Especially, we enjoyed playing the awesome ArcTrain climate game, On Thin Ice. Cheap ‘refreshments’ (tested by the PIs) and the opportunity to play pool, table football or table tennis let the time just fly by.

Instead of taking the train, we hiked up to the summit of the Brocken (Credit: Linda Thielke).

The final day of the retreat consisted of a team-building exercise: hiking the Brocken. During the two hours of ascending the mountain, we enjoyed the time together as well as the snowy landscape around us. Although the view from the summit was obscured by fog, everyone was happy about the “Arctic”-like weather conditions there at the end of our retreat. All-in-all, it was an informative and enjoyable time, and we look forward to our next outing together.

Group picture at the top of the Brocken (Credit: Linda Thielke).
A map of the route undertaken during our group hike. Map created in Mapbox via Strava (Credit: Brian Crow).

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