Intern Abroad

Research visit at Cornell University

August 7th, 2023 | by
  • Mechanical Engineering, PhD
  • USA, Ithaca
  • Cornell University
  • 03/2023 – 05/2023


  1. Application/Finding an internship

Since the start of my Ph.D., I planned to do a research visit abroad, and I was constantly looking for research questions that were suitable for it. Even though my ideas did not really convince me, I scheduled a meeting with my Ph.D. advisor. In this meeting, we discussed possible research groups which fit my research topics. Based on this, I picked a research group and developed a work plan for the stay. With that plan, my advisor contacted the guest professor, which agreed to the exchange. The next step was the official application as visiting non-degree graduate student. I got an administrational contact person that help me with the application. Besides typical application documents like certificates and a statement of purpose, proof of financial resources is required. A fellowship granted by Cornell University covered my tuition fee, so I only had to proof financial resources for living expenses and obligatory health insurance. Once the application process was completed, I received my admission letter and the I20. Both documents are required to apply for a visa. I started the application process 3.5 months before the start of my visit. In the end, I almost ran out of time and received my visa just a week before departure. Hence, I recommend starting the application process earlier.

  1. Accommodation & Living expenses

The beautiful campus of Cornell University lies on a hill above the city center of Ithaca. In close vicinity to the campus is College Town, which is the main area for student living (like Pontviertel). The convenience comes at a cost. In my experience, prices are quite high and conditions low. I spent 800$ on a small (12m2) room in a six-bedroom apartment with only one bathroom. Luckily, there were only three of us living there. To find an apartment, I asked the administrational contact person for help. Even though that provided some opportunities, I took the room that I found online on In general, I think it is not necessary to live in College Town. The local buses, which Cornell University operates, are free of charge for students and cover the city well. Living expenses are, in general, higher. For lunch on campus, you have to spend between 8 and 15$. In particular, groceries are substantially more expensive than in Germany, making it almost as expensive as going out for food.

  1. Everyday life/the internship

My everyday life was similar to my life at RWTH Aachen University. I got an office space in Upson Hall, which is one of the engineering buildings. The group that I visited covered two office rooms plus the office of the guest professor. My office space was within these office rooms, so I was fully integrated into the group. The group was very kind and made me feel very welcome. We went together for lunch or had dinners together. A small difference to my everyday life in Aachen was the more spontaneous interaction with the guest professor. He was basically every day available for discussions, which he showed by leaving the office door open.

  1. Free time/tips

Ithaca is smaller than Aachen but provides enough things to spend your free time. In addition, I highly recommend renting a car to discover the surrounding countryside. To keep this easy, I list my highlights in Ithaca and the surrounding countryside:

  • Watkins Glen State Park
  • Cascadille Gorge Trail
  • Taughannock Falls State Park (The park at the lake is also very nice)
  • Ithaca Farmers Market
  • Ithaca Beer Co, Liquid State, Garrett, Salt Point (Breweries that serve delicious beer and tasty food)
  • Rhine House (Best bar)
  • Dos Amigos (Best burrito)
  1. Conclusion

My research visit at Cornell University was professionally and personally a success. I substantially advanced my research, bringing me a step closer to my Ph.D. Moreover, I gained helpful impressions about the American academic system, which are helpful for planning my future career. Finally, I met so many nice people that I look forward to seeing again.

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