This summer I travelled to the Karolinska Institutet for medical research in Stockholm, Sweden. I spent my six week internship with the Integrative Physiology research group who are doing research on obesity, muscle tissue and physical exercise.
I wanted to do this internship in order to improve my lab skills, learn essential research techniques and be more comfortable in a lab in general. In addition I wanted to find out about an area of research that really interests me in order to help me decide on future course choices, postgraduate programmes etc.
Before leaving for my ‘go abroad experience’ I was quite worried about not being able to understand the people in Sweden. Luckily, almost everyone spoke English and the language spoken in the lab was English as well. I also learned simple Swedish phrases that were very useful for basic conversations. Furthermore, I was hoping to get along well with the host family I was staying with. Not only were they very welcoming towards me, but I also spent my free weekends with them exploring the city.
In addition I was worried of not being able to follow what people were doing in the lab or not being able to understand the tasks that I was supposed to complete. This actually did happen to me more than once. It was quite foolish to believe that I would be able to comprehend everything my co-workers have been doing research on for years or even decades. I have learned not to be afraid to ask for help – I found it easy to approach university staff, but I felt uncomfortable at first interrupting my supervisor or other co-workers to ask for their help. However, everyone was more than happy to explain things to me and to make sure I learned as much as possible.
In conclusion I strongly recommend going abroad, no matter how short your stay might be. Not only did I learn essential data analysis and lab techniques, but I also managed to understand quite complex but extremely interesting medical processes. Additionally, I feel more comfortable travelling on my own. My ‘go abroad experience’ has definitely encouraged me to undertake similar trips next year, to gain an insight into other cultures and expand my scientific knowledge even further.