Reflections about my time in Akron

It’s been three weeks since I moved back to my familiar habitat in Ghent, Belgium, to finish my PhD remotely. From all places, my primary advisor’s lab relocated to The University of Ghent earlier this year.

I had spent the first 22 years of my life in the same city, in the same house, when I decided to pursue a PhD in Biomimicry. Since UAkron is the only university that offers a PhD degree in Biomimicry my decision to relocate there was easy. Two months later I jumped into a new chapter of my life, which has been an eye-opening adventure. Getting out of your comfort zone takes courage. Almost everything around you is new and different. In the 3.5 years I lived in Akron, I was exposed to so many new people, places, ideas, traditions, landscapes, recipes… Every day you can learn something new. Feeling like a total stranger at the start, it took curiosity and adaptation to make myself part of a new habitat.As an exotic human being in Akron I tried making it my new home, but however hard I tried, I felt something was missing. I read this NatGeo article about the Red Eyed Tree Frog for one of our Biomimicry projects in my first year, and now I realize it has a special meaning to me.

“The main components of a habitat are shelter, water, food, and space. A habitat is said to have a suitable arrangement when it has the correct amount of all of these. Sometimes, a habitat can meet some components of a suitable arrangement, but not all.”

The Akronites welcomed me with open arms and open hearts. All of them accepted me into their habitat; they didn’t see me as a stranger. I’m so grateful that I was able to learn from the successful strategies used in this unique Biomimicry- and entrepreneurial-ecosystem.

Seed dispersal

My promise to them is to disperse the knowledge I gained, encouraging others to visit this unique Biomimicry habitat and learn from them. For some, this new habitat might become their new homes, for others like me it might be a temporary home to learn and discover. My challenge now is to feel home again in my familiar habitat, since both my habitat and I have changed in recent years. My hope is to have become a stronger, smarter, more resilient and experienced individual that learned how to adapt and will make her habitat feel like home. And even better, will be able to disperse and insert the Biomimicry knowledge she gained into a new habitat.

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