Introducing: British Asian in Berlin

All, Berlin, Daily Life, Expat, German, germany, inspire, The Beauty of Being British Asian

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As of November 2017, this British Asian has been living and working in Berlin!

The recent radio silence on my blog is down to a lot of exciting life events taking place at the same time. 

Since my last post, I’ve found and started a new job in Berlin, moved to Berlin, found an apartment in Berlin twice, as well as planned and had a multicultural wedding. Where? You guessed it. In Berlin*. 

Just typing that all out makes me want to take a nap. Do you ever take on too much and know it’s too much but do it anyway?

Same.

It’s not for everyone, but when the pressure’s on, that’s when I seem to thrive. 

You might be wondering why Berlin? Apart from marrying a German guy and feeling a little lot disappointed in post-Brexit UK, Berlin is one of my favourite cities in the world. 

 

It has much of what I love about London and so much more.

 

Berlin’s affordability means that living alone, saving money and eating out aren’t luxuries, but everyday norms. The city’s open-mindedness and work-life-balance (shops are closed on Sundays) means that Berliners are laid back, fun and value the importance of life outside of the office.

It has much of what I love about London and so much more. Berlin has the creativity and grit of New York, the multiculturalism and food scene of London and its own unique blend of history, progressiveness and reinvention sprinkled in for good measure.

Berlin really is a melting pot of cultures too. It’s interesting to see how the diaspora populations here – such as the German Turkish community – differ from cultures settled in the UK, such as British Asians like myself.

 

Berlin has the creativity and grit of New York, the multiculturalism and food scene of London and its own unique blend of history, progressiveness and reinvention sprinkled in for good measure.

 

And so, now that the honeymoon is over and life in Berlin can begin at a slower pace, I’m so happy to be writing again!

Since writing The Beauty of Being British Asian last year and the success of the exhibition that it inspired, Burnt Roti’s #BOBBAExhibition – I’m going to be penning more honest pieces. Including, what it was like planning and having a multicultural and bilingual wedding, intercultural/interracial relationship advice, and why I recently cut a lot of my hair (South Asian expectations, anyone?). I’ll also share snippets of Berlin life such as this one, which is the first in a series I like to call British Asian in Berlin. 

In the meantime, thanks for reading and have a lovely day wherever in the world you are. It’s good to be back! It’s good to be a Berliner.

 

Ich bin ein Berliner”

 

 

*technically Potsdam

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Catching a Comet – Rosetta Mission Landing Success!

#CometLanding, Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, DLR, ESOC, european space agency, germany, Mission, Philae, Rosetta, Rosetta mission, Space, Universe
Today, history has been made as the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Rosetta Mission becomes the first spacecraft to land on the surface of a comet. After separating from its comet-chasing companion, Rosetta, lander Philae touched down on the mysterious surface after a nail-biting 7 hour descent. Philae has boldy gone where no human-built spacecraft has ever gone before. 
Dotted with large cliffs, boulders and jets of gas and dust, landing on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko was no easy feat and was the most critical milestone in the decade long mission. Now that Philae is safely on the surface, it will use its instruments to conduct science and provide experts on Earth with clues into not only the comet’s history and origins but also our own. Humanity may well have begun with the help of comet seeding – the notion that a comet carrying water through the solar system collided into our planet, triggering life. We may soon be able to know the answer to this and many other secrets hidden in the treasure chest of knowledge that is comet 67P.
The possibilities are endless, and this mission marks the first of hopefully many momentous missions that really challenge us as a species and encourage us to work together as one to unlock the many mysteries of our Universe and protect our precious planet whilst we do so. Today I feel proud to not only be a part of this space-faring generation and a European, but most importantly to be human.

 

Now, that is one small step for Philae and one giant leap for mankind 🙂

 

-Nikita

Köln – The Human Side of Space at DLR & ESA

astronaut, astronaut training, Cologne, Deutsches Zeuntrum fur Luft und Raumfahrt, DLR, esa, European Astronaut Centre, european space agency, germany, Koln, Medicine, science, Space, space medicine, Travel

 I recently visited the beautiful German city of Köln (or Cologne). Sitting on both sides of the River Rhine, Köln has always been on my list of favourite cities in the world. Its unique skyline is a blend of quaint, historical architecture and modern, high-rise buildings  making it a European city definitely worth visiting. 

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As well as being a cool city, Köln is also home to the headquarters of the German Space Agency or Deutsches zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR) and the European Space Agency’s (ESA) European Astronaut Centre (EAC) –  making it that much cooler if you ask me 🙂

During my time in Cologne, I visited both DLR HQ and the EAC ESA centre. The last time I came here was during the ESA Space Medicine Workshop in 2011 when I was still a Biology student at the University of Birmingham. It was great to return over 3 years later now that I work in the space industry and to see it with new, more knowledgeable eyes.

I paid a visit to the StABLE Study at DLR in particular. The study aims to investigate the impact of a changing rotational axis upon brain perfusion and fluid shift to the lower extremities. In essence, it is trying to figure out the extent to which the Short-Arm Human Centrifuge (SAHC) can be used as a potential countermeasure to the negative impacts of space on the human body. 

Ranging from muscle and bone loss to fluid shift, the SAHC is proposed as an ideal countermeasure to these space side-effects thanks to its short radius. Yet, the extent to which it may be so is still unknown. I watched subjects being spun for science at DLR  work that will better enable scientists to understand the effects of this centrifuge on the human body, especially when the central point of rotation is altered.

Next up on my space agency tour of Köln was the EAC. Home to all things astronaut — the ESA centre is in fact led by ESA astronaut Frank de Winne. As a powerhouse of human spaceflight, the EAC is where astronauts are selected, trained and provided with medical care & support for themselves as well as their families both before and during their time in space.

The Neutral Buoyancy Facility at the EAC is used to simulate weightlessness during astronaut training. It is a great way for astronauts to practice spacewalking and although you can still feel the pull of gravity whilst underwater, it is the closest you can get to microgravity on Earth.

 I also pretended to be Commander of the Soyuz spacecraft – the vehicle that carries astronauts to and from the International Space Station. Developed for the Soviet Space Program in the 1960s, it is still in use today!

My friend Antonio Fortunato works in the position of EUROCOM – or European Spacecraft Communicator. Here, he relays information to the International Space Station from the Columbus Flight Control Team in Munich. When I was there, the station was threatened by a piece of debris – a problem that is unfortunately ever increasing. Teams on Earth worked hard to ensure that the space station successfully dodged the debris – using the Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) to conduct a debris avoidance maneuver – boosting the station to a higher orbit. Science: 1, Real-life Gravity movie: 0 

Another example of the work conducted by people on Earth for life in space is demonstrated by my friend Romain Charles (pictured above). He spent 520 days in crew isolation from 2010-2011 as part of the first simulation of a manned mission to Mars and back. Named Mars 500 – the psychological experiment kept the crew of 6 locked in their spacecraft as they simulated a return trip to the Red Planet. An incredible achievement!
As a key player in European space activities, Germany definitely is the place to be to learn more about human spaceflight. My trip to DLR and the EAC was a unique insight into the process, people and research involved with putting a human in orbit around Earth. The human side of space is very much present in Germany and I believe that such work is not only important, but vital to advancing as a species together – here on Earth and beyond.

Tschüss!

-Nikita

 

 

 

 

Goodbye Germany

Canada, ESO, European Southern Observatory, germany, Goodbye, International Space University, ISU, Montreal, Munich, science communication, Space Studies Program, SSP, SSP14, Travel

I’ve spent the first half of this year working as a Science Communication intern at the European Southern Observatory (ESO) and it’s sadly my last day in the German state of Bavaria. My time in Munich has completely flown by. I watched the seasons change from icy and dark winter and then springtime blossom, to the summer sun. It’s hard to believe that I’m leaving soon but I’d say the time has passed by in a flash due to my love of the work, city and people I’ve met here.

The flags of ESO’s 15 member states stood tall in the morning, Munich springtime sun this particular day — a Committee Meeting was taking place and the flags are saved for such occasions. I’ve been told that the winter this year was exceptionally mild compared to chilly Munich standards and spring definitely sprung early this year as the city has been in full bloom.

I arrived in Munich on New Years Day and had some incredible opportunities such as visiting the Columbus Control Centre and the stunning Austrian city of Vienna,  but most importantly I learnt first-hand how to communicate cutting-edge astronomical science to the masses and how to do it well.

  The people I’ve met and friends I’ve made have made me feel at home in this new city and I’m looking forward to returning one day, hopefully in the near future. The past 5 months have been an incredible learning curve both personally and professionally — I’ve gained a range of skills and experiences that I believe will better equip me for whatever lies in store for me next.

 Adorable teddy in lederhosen — the perfect leaving present!

Speaking of what’s next… I’m flying to my summer home of Montreal this weekend as I begin work at the International Space University (ISU) Space Studies Program (SSP) 2014. The summer course is an intense 9-week educational immersion into the space industry. I actually was a student of this summer program back in 2012. You can read my blog post on my Florida space camp story here.

This time around though, I’ll be returning as a Teaching Associate for the Human Performance in Space (HPS) Department. I’ll be sure to write a blog post with more details very soon 🙂 For now though, I’m not quite ready to leave Munich, but looking forward to some change.

-Nikita

Clues to a Cosmic Crime

astronomy, Dr J, esa, ESO, ESOcast, European Southern Observatory, european space agency, Filming, germany, Hubblecast, NASA, science communication, Space, Tegernsee


Not so long ago, I travelled to the picturesque town of Tergensee. Nestled beside the Alps, it is home to the recording studio used by the European Southern Observatory (ESO) to film the video podcast series – ESOcast and Hubblecast

These videos tell the stories from the frontline of astronomy from both ESO and  NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope perspectives  using spectacular graphics, witty metaphors and awe-inspiring scientific information.

 We spent the day with Dr. Joe Liske, otherwise known as ‘Dr J’ the narrator of both podcasts as he narrated scenes against the studio’s green screen. 

 

I co-wrote the script for Hubblecast Episode 72: Clues to a Cosmic Crime and was lucky enough to make a cameo appearance in the video!

 This episode of Hubblecast witnesses a cosmic crime in action, as a spiral galaxy moves through the heart of galaxy cluster named Abell 3627. The cluster has no mercy on its galactic visitor as it rips the spiral’s entrails out into space, leaving bright blue streaks as telltale clues to this cosmic crime.

As someone that watched these videos online before joining ESO, it was a great behind-the-scenes insight into the production work that goes into creating these magnificent pieces of science communication.

The Hubblecast is out today, you’ll understand why Dr. J looks so windswept in the photo above when you watch Hubblecast Episode 72: Clues to a Cosmic Crime below or on YouTube here. My cameo appearance is at 2:42 🙂

https://youtube.googleapis.com/v/oL2nMtQtdDY&source=uds

– This is Nikita, signing off for Making Apple Pie From Scratch, ‘once again nature has surprised us beyond our wildest imaginations’.

 

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Columbus Calling

Columbus Control Centre, Columbus module, DLR, esa, european space agency, German Aerospace Centre, germany, International Space Station, ISS, Laboratory, Mission Control, Munich, Oberpfaffenhofen, Space

 

  Yesterday morning, I was lucky enough to be given a tour of the Columbus Control Centre. Located at the German Aerospace Centre – DLR (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt) it sits just outside Munich in a place called Oberpfaffenhofen (also, my new favourite German word).

  As the Mission Control Centre for the European Columbus module of the International Space Station (ISS), engineers here are in contact with the astronauts up in space as well as other ISS Mission Control Centres scattered across the globe. It was a pretty amazing way to start my weekend!

 

The Columbus module is the European part of the ISS. It is a European Space Agency (ESA) laboratory attached to the space station, where astronauts conduct experiments in fields ranging from plant biology, fluid physics, life science and material science.

Launched into space nestled inside the Space Shuttle Atlantis in 2008—the Columbus module is a powerhouse of  space research and it is here, at the Columbus Control Centre that the space laboratory is controlled.

 

This room in the photos above is the Flight Control Room. It’s staffed by a minimum of 3 people around the clock who monitor the module to ensure that everything is functioning correctly. Each astronaut’s schedule is mapped out down to 5 minute increments  with 8 hours of work, 8 hours of play and 8 hours of sleep all precisely pencilled into the computer program on the screen above. Since it was a weekend, the astronauts are given this time off, so are free to enjoy the wonders of zero gravity without disturbance.

It was a really great day and a fascinating behind-the-scenes insight into the enormous global effort that the space station is, both on Earth and in space.

A friendly engineer even let us sit in his chair for a photo op 🙂 The button I’m holding speed dials an astronaut via Houston!

-Nikita

Lost In Space

#Scicomm, astronomy, editing, ESO, European Southern Observatory, Garching Bei Munchen, germany, internship, January, journalism, Munich, press releases, science communication, Space, Winter, writing

January has been a flurry of snow, early nights, getting lost, astronomy, writing and most of all learning.

 From learning how to write succinct yet compelling European Southern Observatory (ESO) press releases to navigating the U-Bahn, using Euros and recalling my GCSE German lessons— I’m getting more settled into life in Munich and will be posting more regularly in February. For now, here’s a photo of what is getting me through these icy winter months: 

 

  Hi, my name is Nikita and I’m a Nutella-holic.

 

-Nikita

New Year, New City

#Scicomm, astronomy, education, ESO, European Southern Observatory, germany, Happy New Year, intern, Moving, Munich, Public Outreach, science, science communications, Space, Travel, work

Happy New Year!
 
I hope that your first few days of 2014 have been wonderful and full of keeping those new resolutions. The New Year is usually a time for new beginnings, outlooks and fresh starts and I began 2014 with a flight to my new home for the next few months, Munich! 

On New Years Day, I flew 1 hour and a half away from my home city of London to Munich, the capital of the German state of Bavaria. It is also home to the world’s most productive intergovernmental astronomy organisation and my new work place, the European Southern Observatory (ESO). Comprised of 15 member states, ESO operates a suite of the world’s most advanced telescopes in the world which scan the Southern skies and probe the Universe for untold stories waiting to be discovered. With telescopes in three sites in Chile – La SillaParanal and Chajnantor, ESO is working on painting an ever growing picture of the cosmos.

 It is vital that the findings revealed from the hidden universe are communicated to the public and this is where my department comes in. I am a Science Communication Intern within the education & Public Outreach Department (ePOD) of ESO. You can read biographies of the department members, including myself on the ESO website here. It is within ePOD that I am learning more about the science communication process and working with the team to produce press releases, popular articles, image/video captions and scripts in order to effectively communicate scientific information to a broader audience.

 

I’m very happy that I’m working in a field that I’ve pursued since a young age and I hope I can inspire others who have similar aspirations to continue to strive to achieve them.

Auf Wiedersehen!

-Nikita

Au revoir England!

Eurostar, France, germany, International Space University, masters, space studies, Strasbourg, TGV, trains
I have arrived at my new home for the year, Strasbourg. I caught the Eurostar and super fast TGV train to reach the city with a unique blend of historical and contemporary architecture.

Sitting on the border of Germany, Strasbourg is home to the International Space University campus, which is where I will be studying a Masters in Space Studies for the next year.


Classes begin on Monday, so tomorrow I’ll be spending the day familiarising myself with the area so that I avoid getting lost before I have a French sim card!


– Nikita