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PhD in America – Sounds Unusual? How did I get a place in college overseas? Study (PhD) in the USA? It was not easy, but let’s start with the earlier events …

To understand the whole story, we need to go back a year – summer 2020.

Full of positive attitude and willingness to conquer the world, I came back from the Erasmus + exchange in Slovenia. I have already completed and defended my innovative master’s thesis in Poland. In it, I investigated whether microplastic is present in the snow in the high mountains of the world. I was able to do this thanks to the combination of work as a leader of foreign expeditions and studies. While traveling with tourists, I collected snow samples, which I later tested in a lab at the university. You can read more about my thesis and microplastics here.

Armed with a master’s degree and engineering with knowledge of three foreign languages (English, Norwegian and Spanish), I set out to conquer the job market.

And nothing, a total flop. I got into interviews, went to the final stages. But none of them ended successfully. I often did not get feedback from these job interviews, or it was quite strange. “Too poor knowledge of the English language” – seriously, I have a C1 certificate, and similar “excuses”.

In the meantime, I was still thinking about continuing my master’s research on microplastic and doing my PhD. However, I really did not want to do it in Poland. The amount of the doctoral scholarship, the amount of bureaucracy and the tasks that scientists in our country deal with did not captivate me.

I applied for PhD in Norway, Canada and Great Britain, but nothing came out of it.

Months without work continued to pass. The pandemic reality did not help, but what would it be that bad? Self-esteem was going downhill with every job interview that ended in failure. They took me on as a sales representative for photovoltaics. But seriously? That’s why I was studying to knock from house to house and ask if you want to buy solar panels? In addition, without the base of remuneration, only the commission on concluded contracts. I keep searching.

In December, I got an email from Darek from the university, who knew about my willingness to continue research on microplastics.

“You might be interested,” and pinned at the bottom of a PhD in Reno offer.

PhD position: microplastics in snow Reno, NV USA

The Microplastics Lab at the Desert Research Institute (DRI) is recruiting two PhD students to study microplastics and snow hydrology. This successful applicant will be enrolled in the Graduate Program of Hydrologic Sciences (GPHS) at the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR).

Position: The students will study microplastics deposited within snow-dominated montane watersheds during periods of snow accumulation and melt in the Sierra Nevada of California and Nevada. These findings will be used to determine the sources of microplastics in the remote environment and their downstream fate in vulnerable, semi-arid watersheds.  As part of an ongoing DRI education activity, their research findings will be integrated into a middle school mobile teaching kit, to engage students in cutting-edge science at the middle school level.

Preferred Qualifications: An undergraduate or MS degree in geology and/or hydrology (or related field) with an interest in: fieldwork, analytical laboratory work, microplastics, snow hydrology, and/or water quality.

Please visit the lab website ( for information about our research program and the University of Nevada Reno Graduate Program of Hydrologic Sciences website ( for information about the program and application process.  Applications must be received by January 5th for fall 2021 admission. Prospective applicants are asked to contact Dr. Monica Arienzo for further information.

In partnership between DRI and UNR, the Graduate Program of Hydrologic Sciences is one of the most well-established interdisciplinary programs of its kind in North America. The mission of the GPHS is provide outstanding academic training for students to become the hydrologists and hydrogeologists who will understand and address critical water challenges facing the world. The Program focuses on studies of water in the environment including its surface and subsurface roles in geologic and biogeochemical processes, ecosystem functions, and climate science.

This position is based in Reno NV, a wonderful city to live in, with its bike paths, the Truckee River, access to world-class skiing, hiking, mountain biking and trail running, and a well-connected airport. Reno is also located close to Lake Tahoe, Yosemite National Park, and Lassen National Park. 

It sounds just like something where I can have a good chance of catching it. Maybe it is worth trying and applying to study (PhD) in the USA.

I’ll have to try – I’m writing a long email. I want to thank Amanda extremely here, she has supported me so much during this extremely difficult time. Our paths crossed for a time. When I was getting depressed, I had no desire or motivation, she would take the computer and write messages for job advertisements.

I created a long and very detailed email, attached my thesis, study transcripts and sent it to the States. After less than a day, I got a response asking for a suitable appointment time via Zoom. The machine started.

The first meeting with the advisor – it looks fantastic.

There is a great willingness to cooperate on both sides, it is time to start the struggle with bureaucracy. First, I need to apply for studies in the USA. Deadline – January 15th for the fall semester, 2021. You have to think about studies there a bit earlier than in Poland.

In February, I wrote a post about looking for a job on LinkedIn. Its ranges exceeded my wildest expectations – over 150 thousand views with huge feedback. I managed to “reverse” the recruitment process, I was able to choose the company with which I will cooperate. Many attractive offers, but none as much as studying microplastics in the Sierra Nevada and studying Hydrology in the USA.

In Poland, I got a job in a small, almost family-owned company, where I dealt with the marketing of their product – PABLO. Building a website, promotional videos, social media. Task-based remote work with flexible hours – a lot of freedom and decision-making – this was what I really wanted.

In mid-March, I got a message from the USA – I got a PhD! Will I be doing my studies (PhD) in the USA?

Another Zoom meeting, such an “introduction” to potential students. After him, the decision – I go for it.

I had to work hard with the bureaucracy. I have sent the official diplomas and transcripts of my previous studies. As it turned out later, they could not be accepted as official in the US because they were not sent directly from the university. However, they did my best and continued my application.

Then a visa to the USA – I received a document confirming admission to studies and receiving a scholarship. Thanks to it, I was able to obtain an F1 visa – intended for students. It took a lot of bureaucracy, went to the US consulate in Krakow and I received a piece of paper from America into my passport.

Later, buying an airline ticket and preparing life in terms of going to America. Along the way, of course, a lot of things to fill – here a student account on the online service, it is bureaucracy to work in a research institute. All the time, however, I had a lot of help from the USA – both from Monica – my supervisor and the office for foreign students. The path of paperwork and handling was long, and it is not over yet.

COVID test before departure, quick packing after returning from Peru, and I’m flying. I am writing these words to you from a Lufthansa plane bound for Denver. So formally, they still have the right to refuse me entry into the US at the border …

Arrived to the USA

— I’ve been in the US for over a week now, they let in without a problem. Now I am getting to know the new reality, I am getting to know people and places. It will not be easy, there is a lot of work ahead of me, but it will certainly be interesting and unusual :). I’m begging study (PhD) in the USA.

I’m afraid of the States. Being alone there, left my family and friends. I am afraid of consumerism, high prices, how I come from and how I will be perceived. But I keep thinking about the consequences of my decision in 5-10-15 years and what I will regret. That I went to the USA, or that I preferred to stay in Poland?