Interview with Nurseda Yildirim, an inboud expatriate in Zaragoza

You have very impressive international education and professional experience; when did you come up with the idea of living in Spain?

When I was an engineering student (approximately 10 years ago), I had already decided on my career path. I was aiming to work in the renewable-energy sector, specifically in wind-energy and solar-energy applications. Therefore, my priority was to ensure that the country and the region in which I would be living must have a "famous regional wind", considerable wind-energy applications, and an R&D environment that is unbiased in terms of gender, ethnicity, and race. 

Here you have my roadmap:

  • I was born in Ankara, and I studied engineering in Izmir. Later on, for my MSc studies, I enrolled in another university, also in Izmir and closer to wind farm sites. The region is well known for its winds, the Meltemi or Etesian winds.
  • For my second MSc degree, I moved to Gotland, a Swedish island that is famous for its wind-energy generation. Thereafter, I was offered the opportunity to participate in a very prestigious EU project, the “Advanced Wind Energy System Operation and Maintenance (AWESOME)” project, between 2015 and 2018 within the European Union’s Marie Curie Innovative Training Network.
  • During my PhD studies, I carried out research in very windy cities such as Soria in Spain and Loughborough in the UK. My host institution was Fundación CIRCE, which is in Zaragoza. The EU project ended in 2018. I defended my PhD thesis in the following year, after which I continued working in CIRCE.

For the last year and half, you have been working in the wind-energy research group at Fundación Circe; can you describe your role?

I am a member of the “Analysis & Optimization of Renewable Energy Group” in the Electrical Systems Area. My recent role involves conducting research associated with the operation and maintenance analysis of the renewable-energy assets.


Unfortunately the number of coronavirus cases continues to grow worldwide, Is that unpredictable situation affecting the area of wind energy? Is there any big challenge? 

Worldwide, all economies and sectors are experiencing very challenging and unpredictable periods.  People may think that wind turbines are in remote areas, that their operation does not require very frequent human intervention, and that everything should go smoothly. That is not the reality.  The area of wind energy has various sub-sectors, each of them affected to varying degrees by the crisis. Concerning component manufacturers, during the pandemic, some of the major wind-turbine manufacturers had to shut down their production lines. The construction sector involved in new wind-turbine installations came to a standstill.  Moreover, shutting down a country or halting industrial activities influence electricity demand and its balance with electricity market prices, which means that even if the wind blows, you cannot generate profits.



Where the R&D sector relating to wind energy is concerned, “working from home” is sometimes not possible due to the nature of the job, for example if you need to conduct an experiment in a wind tunnel or a composite-materials laboratory. Nevertheless, even for jobs in which working from home is feasible, it was not an easy option for many companies if they had not allocated any resources to home-working until lockdown measures were in place. In CIRCE, we were ready for “Teletrabajo”. Before the announcement of the state of emergency, we started to work from home. Our IT department was ready to support us, and our computational tools were ready. Of course, there are significant changes in our day-to-day plans. As a research centre, CIRCE is involved in many EU projects, which have technical committee meetings in different countries. As researchers, we participate in scientific conferences held in various parts of the world. The majority of conferences have been cancelled, postponed, or re-planned as online events. All meetings are now held in teleconference format. Adaptability is key when dealing with challenges. 


Turkish and Spanish culture seems different; how was your experience in adpating to our culture?

Adapting to the Spanish culture undeniably requires a big effort to overcome the language barrier. However, so far, my experience in Spain has been good.

Both are Mediterranean countries. Both countries have very diverse regional characteristics. There are many similarities and of course many differences. As an example, in Spain, it is so easy to start an e-mail just saying “Hola”, but in Turkey, an e-mail often begins with the Turkish equivalent of “Estimado Señor/Señora”. In Spain, “Usted” is used when being polite and formal, but in Turkey, if you do not use its equivalent, it means you are being very rude.

 Here, in both academia and industry, distance is shorter and communication is stronger between higher and lower hierarchical positions, in comparison with Turkey. 


To get a work permit and sponsor your family members can be overwhelming in Spain. How was your experience?

The bureaucracy is quite difficult to handle without getting any guidance. The paperwork consumes all your life energy. We moved here with my husband. He is an engineer and he completed a MSc degree here. In our first visa application, which we did from Turkey, we did not know that we should apply together. Then, I got a work and residence permit, but for him there was an only residence permit option. Once we arrived in Spain, we made an appointment with the Foreigners Department of the police to obtain our NIEs. I remember our first visit to the Foreigners Department. We did not speak Spanish, and there was no-one who could speak English. Mobile telephones could not be used, so it was a miserable communication attempt.


When we wanted to apply for family reunion, we were told that my husband had return to our home country and wait there for a long period during the changeover from one type of visa to another. My visa type was not so common, so each year, we faced with a different set of rules; there were many changes in regulations. Finally, CIRCE contacted Mobexma and I had a meeting with Vanessa. Everything became easier; instead of more problems, there were some solutions.