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[SCIENTIFIC CHRONICLE] The experience of a young researcher from Belgium in the city of Punta Arenas

“Traveling more than 12,000 kilometers for my first job, was it worth it? 100% sure it is! The adventure began on September 29, 2022 with a flight from my country of origin: Belgium. The trip was a disaster, everything that could go wrong, went wrong, but after being trapped in Madrid for almost three days, I left Europe and arrived in Punta Arenas.

The objective of my trip was to work as a research assistant for PhD. Karin Gérard, principal researcher at the BASE Millennium Institute. Last year I had already been in Punta Arenas for a month in the context of my master’s thesis on starfish in Magellan and I fell in love with this beautiful region. Thanks to Dr. Karin Gérard, I had the opportunity to come back.

Luka Vantomme with the principal researcher the BASE Millennium Institute, Dr. Karin Gerard. Photo: BASE Millennium I. / C. Barrientos

Although I learned the basics of Spanish a few months before coming, I arrived in Chile without being able to say almost anything. Fortunately, the people are very nice, they were very (very!) Patients with me and my level of baby speech. Thanks to them I have learned very quickly. I started playing volleyball, I met people and in the end they became my best friends whom I will miss a lot. With them I went to visit Faro San Isidro, Faro Dungeness, Villa Dorotea, the Magallanes National Reserve, and they took me to try the famous choripanes of the “Kiosko Roca”, and also completos, pichangas, and chorillanas.

On the other hand, I am also very grateful to my colleagues from the Laboratory of Antarctic and Subantarctic Marine Ecosystems (LeMAS), led by PhD. Andrés Masilla. They were always very cool and the work environment seemed like a family. Thanks to Karin’s trust in me, I was able to work calmly and independently.

LmAS team together with a researchers from Belgium and France. Photo: BASE Millennium I. / C. Barrientos

At the end of my stay in Chile, colleagues came from Belgium and France with whom I had the opportunity to go diving in the small, beautiful and southern city of Puerto Williams. At this time of the year (end of March) the weather began to change and I saw my first snowfall from Chile (and I dived for the first time in snow ).

After an April full of diving, meetings with friends and farewells, it was time to return to Belgium.

I will never forget the people, nature, and the memories of Punta Arenas. Thank you all!”


Written by: Luka Vantomme

Main picture: BASE Millennium I. /C. Barrientos