Science Abroad-Computational Chemistry
I wanted to expand my research interests in organic chemistry, specifically in terms how
computational techniques can be used to carry out reaction and structural analyses. I knew that I was an applied learner, and grasped materials better through engaging with the material in a research setting. Science abroad offered me that opportunity. On a more personal level, I wanted to experience another country, and expand my inter-cultural fluencies.
The experience developed my communication skills, critical thinking skills, and honed my
abilities to handle ambiguity.
Hungarian was drastically different from English, and in this context, my abilities to communicate using body language took on more importance than ever. I learned how to better express myself in the absence of language skills. In terms of critical thinking skills, I was able to carry out my own thesis project right after first year through this opportunity, and presented at the Eastern European Visegrad Conference. As such, this experience was a cornerstone for setting the foundations for a diverse range of research projects later on in my undergraduate career—ranging from fundamental science to social policy. Finally, the research process I was exposed to honed my abilities to handle ambiguity in the process. Unpredictability in findings in the lab, along with navigating a new country myself trained my resilience through the process.
Personally, this experience expanded my networks and built lasting friendships–I still keep in
touch with those in Hungary today. I have also carried the research competencies forward from this experience into my current research endeavors. The critical thinking skills I gained, along with the experience of seeing a project from beginning to end has advanced my capacities as a researcher tremendously.
I was challenged in terms of language initially. Hungarian language was very different from English, and I struggled initially with communicating in daily life. Further along into my stay, I learned to modulate my body language to facilitate communication, and was able to progressively better my abilities to communicate in this fashion through continuously asking for feedback. The second challenge I faced was regarding adjustment to a new environment. Admittedly, I did get homesick in the first week, but the supportive community throughout my stay was instrumental in helping me adjust. Summer Abroad had an on-site coordinator who was extremely helpful in the on-boarding process. The student community also played a key role in this process. All of the students on this exchange shared a house together, and the sense of camaraderie made my time in Hungary seem like a huge family vacation at the end.
Would you recommend learning abroad to a friend? Why?
Absolutely. For how much you push yourself, and how much you learn about how you deal with challenges. It was as much of an academic experience as a personal learning experience studying myself.