Time Abroad: April 2007 - September 2007
Major: Physics and Chemistry
My internship was provided by the German Academic Exchange Service's 'Research in Science and Engineering' (RISE) Program. The program brings engineering and science students from universities across North America to spend the summer at a German university or research institute in order to complete a meaningful research project.
I was chosen by Ph.D. student Stefan Zorn of the Institute of Applied Physics at the University of Tübingen to aid in his research of the interaction between proteins. I made arrangements with Stefan to work part-time in the laboratory during the semester while I was attending classes and then to work exclusively on my research once my summer break began.
As a result of this agreement, my typical day in Germany was very unique. I attended classes, both German language classes as well as physics and chemistry classes, during the mornings and worked in the lab during the afternoons. Most mornings I had biochemistry lecture starting at 8:00am followed by an intensive German language course lasting until noon. I would then either eat lunch with members of my lab group or with several international friends, depending on which end of town I happened to be. Lunch was always at the Mensa, the name Germans give to their university cafeterias. Meals were very reasonably priced and were rarely lacking in quality. After a much needed lunch break I would then head to the lab where I spent most of the rest of my day analyzing the interactions between bovine serum albumin protein molecules. My project was a perfect fit; not only did it combine the disciplines of physics and chemistry, but it also had many implications to biology and medicine which I find extremely interesting.
My day did not end in the lab, however. I occasionally had another lecture or two and afterwards I would typically exercise at the university gym or participate in a slacklining course offered through the university's sport center. My day finally concluded at my apartment where I would cook dinner, practice speaking German with my German roommate, or do a little studying. At times it was a bit stressful juggling my academic and research obligations, but I was able to overcome this time crunch through help from both my friendly professors and from the generous members of my lab group.
In spite of my ever-busy schedule, I made enough time to squeeze in all the traveling I could handle on the weekends and during holidays. Berlin, Hamburg, Dresden, Prague, Geneva, Stuttgart, Zurich, Lyon, and Corsica were just but a few of my destinations. If I was not traveling, I spent my free time socializing with friends over food and beer along the tranquil Nekar River or experiencing the culture of southern Germany by attending city-wide and state-wide events.
My time in Germany was definitely full of struggles, but on the whole it was truly amazing. The number of friends and the amount of knowledge, confidence, and experience I gained during my stay are things I could never have predicted. Being able to see research, academics, and life in general through the German perspective, if only for several months, was worth the journey.