Experiences from an international postdoc
Name: Aihui Peng
In 2008, Aihui Peng moved from China to Sweden, for a two-year postdoc position in mathematics education at Umeå Mathematics Education Research Centre (UMERC). Here she shares her experiences of that period.
Why did you apply for a postdoc at Umeå university?
I had been always looking for opportunities to study further in outside China. I was very happy when an American-Chinese professor forwarded the postdoc information at Umeå University to me, because I was so excited to know that there was a big research group in mathematics education where there were lots of interesting people who were doing interesting research projects (listed in the UMERC website). I thought it would be a great opportunity for me if I could be lucky to do my postdoc study there.
What were your expectations, for example on the position, the research group (UMERC), Umeå and/or Sweden?
My expectation for the position was that I could further develop my research interests in the comparison of competence of mathematics teacher between China and Sweden, through which I hope my research findings could contribute to improve mathematics education in both China and Sweden.
Where your expectations met?
I think I learnt quite a lot in the two years, which is far beyond my expectation. Through my studies, I learnt that mathematics education is designated as social practices where the teaching and learning of mathematics actually occur, and it is deeply rooted in its particular culture; it is impossible to adopt one practice (or system) directly to another one; and we should always humbly keep reflection on what are the cultural values behind them so as to better prepare for learning from others.
What is your main impression or memory of your stay in Umeå?
I had a wonderful time in Umeå, both academically and lifely. I enjoyed the regular Wednesday seminar, the annual retreat activity and the time when we went for conferences together, and I also enjoyed the Fika.
Would you recommend other mathematics education researchers to apply for similar positions at UMERC?
I would definitely recommend other mathematics education researchers to apply for the position. It is a great place for who has enthusiasm in mathematics education to pursue their ambitions.
What advice would you give someone that was accepted as postdoc at UMERC?
I would like to recommend those who are accepted as postdocs to learn Swedish. I think it will not only enrich their experiences in this typical Nordic country, but also help them to deal with the language difficulties in both research and life they might encounter.
Aihui Peng now works as a Senior Lecturer in Mathematics Education at Linnaeus University in Växjö, Sweden.