Lots of Life Lessons in Not a Lot of Time (Hong Kong)

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I spent 6 weeks in the Applied Biology and Chemical technology department of Hong Kong’s Polytechnic University. I was a biologist amongst a team full of chemists and had only a vague outline of what my work would entail. I don’t think any of us really knew what we’d let ourselves in for, because I was a little clueless when I arrived.

My supervisor was/still is an amazing woman. Meeting her introduced me into the world of nanotechnology and the many progressions she had helped it to make. I had never properly looked into such a topic before, and it was fascinating to learn more about the potential use of nanocarriers in drug and gene delivery systems.

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But this was definitely not my field. I studied infectious diseases – which mostly surrounded microbiology and epidemiology.  Discussions with my supervisor led us to the decision that I would be taught how to use and then interpret the data from a piece of equipment called a flow cytometer. This uses a laserbeam shot through individual cells, and measures scatter to provide information about the cell sample. I worked in labs requiring gloves and safety equipment, so I’m short on photos!

Developing my skills into an unknown field forced me to consider how I could apply my previous knowledge to it. This ongoing process helped me to broaden my view of what I could be involved with (employment-wise) in the future. Science is such a broad-spanning, interwoven web of specialities and I am now much more open-minded about what my work could entail.

At the end of these 6 weeks, I am now one of only a handful of people at PolyU who is able to operate the university’s new Flow Cytometer machinery. Although my work wasn’t as full-on as I had anticipated, my supervisor was incredibly encouraging in my interacting with her staff and my exploring of Hong Kong in order to further us all in our cultural awareness and understanding.

Hong Kong is one of the most beautiful and interesting cities I have ever been in, as some of the photos here show, and I would recommend to anybody to experience this wonderful place. There were many other international students working at the university with me, and spending time with them taught me so much about many diverse cultures in a very short space of time.

I mostly took this internship to prove something to myself. I am moving into a wider world of post-graduate education and employment and am beginning to doubt what I am capable of. This trip taught me that I can push myself into the unknown and be okay with being nervous about it. It’s okay to ask questions – both in the work place and the outside world. Asking questions over these last few weeks is what has taught me so much about another field of science, about another culture previously so mysterious to me, and about myself too. Thank you to IAESTE and to the Principal’s Go Abroad Fund for helping me get here.

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