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Intern Abroad

Internship in Romania

November 23rd, 2023 | by
  • Chemistry M.Sc.
  • Romania, Bucharest
  • National University of Science and Technology Politehnica Bucharest
  • 09/2023 – 11/2023

Application & Search for an internship

Romania is home of many inventors and known for its research in many scientifical fields. I am studying chemistry, so naturally I wanted to get to know and experience

Corvin’s Castle
© Andreea Maria Rânea

the scientifical research in the capital, Bucharest. Since I went for a two-month research internship, the process of applying was different and simpler than going for lectures. I searched for scientific topics of interest and started first looking at University Politehnica of Bucharest, as it has a good reputation. This is how I came across the National Center of Micro and Nanomaterials. My application was done three months in advance, directly to the director of the center, who happily accepted me. As for the bureaucracy, I only had one formular to fill out for my internship to be recognized at RWTH. Romania is part of the European Union, so no visa is required, and if you have a German health insurance, your stay is covered under the European Health Card.

Accommodation & Living Expenses

The University offers all students a place in the dorms, which are near the main campus. In the rectorate, located in the main campus, there is a cafeteria on the top floor (on the terrace) with a look over the campus and with fresh traditional Romanian food. The price of a full meal was around 3 Euros, and you could also have traditional soup for 1.4 Euros. Alternatively, the biggest mall, Afi Palace Cotroceni, is situated 10 minutes on foot from campus, so the possibility of eating at different restaurants can also be taken into consideration.

The University is easily accessible- you can take either the metro, buses, or tram to the University gate. There is a common card which you can use for all these transportation means and the metro fare for example was 1 euro/ 2 trips.

Palace of the Parliament (under light show)
© Andreea Maria Rânea

Groceries are also relatively cheap, so if you wish to cook for yourself, you can find high quality bio vegetables and meat which you can buy directly from the producer. There are many weekly markets with producers from all over the country too.

Everyday life/ Internship

Romanians are generally very welcoming people and usually make it their mission to include new people and make them feel at home. I could feel that especially in my laboratory, where every member would constantly come to me, ask me my progress, if I have any difficulties, if I want to grab lunch together, the list goes on. Even some of them with different expertise and research than mine would sit down with me and brainstorm reasons to explain my results when I needed help. Furthermore, as we sat down one day with the director and another professor, we got to hear stories about their youth and university time, which was quite different from university today. I was surprised to also hear stories about Romanian chemistry figures like Costin Nenițescu and get so familiar with those times. I think it was very nice to befriend the professors and other members like that, instead of only keeping a distanced professional relationship. Going to the laboratory daily felt warm and welcoming.

After I got my safety and general introductions of the laboratory, I could start to work right away. My research was on the synthesis and doping of hydroxyapatite for medical applications. For this synthesis I first used a microwave assisted reactor for hydrothermal method. I also got to personally use the X-Ray Diffraction spectrometer and assist experts for the Scanning and Transmission Electron Spectroscopy. The laboratory was equipped with new generation devices for the best analysis results, as well as all necessary materials for my research. I also got to work again with cells for viability and cytotoxicity tests since my bachelor’s thesis. The bio-safety laboratory was placed in a new building, also on the main campus. From

The Triumphal Arch Bucharest
© Andreea Maria Rânea

September to November there was very good weather in Bucharest, with temperatures even exceeding 30 degrees Celsius at times, so the walk through the campus between the buildings was a nice change of scenery during work. With the start of the semester in October it got livelier, also since most students spend their breaks outside (the line in the cafeteria got longer too unfortunately). Another endearing fact was that the group had three aquariums with fish and turtles in the common room, which personally lifted my spirit every day, as the turtles would always come forth to greet you.

During my time there, I was invited to join the Conference of the Romanian Electron Microscopy Society which was held in Cluj-Napoca. This conference was attended by many Romanian and foreign electron microscopy specialists, as well as well-known electron microscope producers like Zeiss, Jeol and Thermo Fisher Scientific. It was a great experience for me, as it was the first scientifical conference of this type that I attended, and it gave me meaningful insights for my future career. Furthermore, I had the opportunity to attend three PhD thesis defenses, also a first for me. The tradition there was that after the presentation, the new doctor would organize a catering for the group to celebrate. There were also a lot of emotions involved and praises coming from the jury, which was formed interdisciplinary, with professors from chemical and medical faculties.

Free Time & Tips

Outside the laboratory I would generally meet friends and walk through the city. We would go down the Victoriei Boulevard and grab some ice cream at one of the best shops I visited (Gelateria La Romana) and then enjoy the George Enescu classical music festival in front of the Royal Palace. Another beautiful sight was the Palace of the Parliament, which is the second largest administrative building after the Pentagon, as well as the heaviest building in the world. The materials used for its construction are almost entirely of Romanian origin, with thousands of tons of crystal and millions m3 of marble, wood, and woolen carpets, as well as velvet and brocade curtains with silver and gold embroideries.

Unirii Square Fountains
© Andreea Maria Rânea

The streets were always full until late, as the shops and restaurants close at 10 PM or later. On Sunday all facilities are open as usual, and you can always find a non-stop shop or even pharmacy. The Old City (Centrul Vechi/ Lipscani) is a glimpse of the old streets of Bucharest, which kept the old buildings and churches as well and is well known as an entertainment center, being home to various restaurants, bars, and clubs. A restaurant that you must visit while in Bucharest is “Caru’ cu Bere”, traditionally decorated and which offers traditional live music as well as traditional dance performances every day. If you are unsure what to order, some typical traditional dishes are “Mici/ Mititei”, “Sarmale”, “Ciorbă de burtă”, “Mămăligă (Polenta) with sour cream and cheese” and “Ardei umpluți”. I also recommend you make a reservation beforehand, if possible, as it is usually very busy. Besides the varied nightlife there are a lot of activities that you can do. Theater is also famous in the Romanian culture, and there are many theaters in Bucharest. I also got to see in premiere the piece “The Envelope” written by famous Romanian novelist Liviu Rebreanu. After the laboratory I would also go to the Dinamo Stadium for track and field training.

On the weekend I traveled to the mountains, to cities like Brașov and Bran, which is known for Dracula’s castle, the Bran castle. Dracula as known today was ins

University Politehnica of Bucharest
© Andreea Maria Rânea

pired by Vlad III Voivode of Wallachia, also known as Vlad the Impaler or Vlad Drăculea (Dracula), his first nickname being related to his execution method and the second being his name in the Order of the Dragon. Finally, there were a lot of historical buildings and sites with a lot of stories to tell throughout Romania.

It is important to note that Romania has one of the biggest brown bear populations in Europe, and if you travel to the mountains, you might come across them. If you plan to go on a hike, you must pay attention to the signs and follow the set paths. Also, if you choose a hotel situated in or near the forest, you will get warned by the staff not to walk outside during the night, as you might just encounter one. Sometimes you get to see them from your window too, or on the side of the serpentines, just minding their own business.

In Poiana Brașov you can find two of the best traditional Romanian restaurants, which I totally recommend if you ever visit there.

Bucegi Mountains
© Andreea Maria Rânea

These are „Stâna Turistică Serghiana” and „Coliba Haiducilor”. Each has a different charm, and both have traditional live music and decorations. For the first one I recommend to eat outside, at the highest level for the best view, and for the second one inside, for the best atmosphere.

As I said before, Romanians are very welcoming, and you can notice this anywhere you go. Even if you don’t speak the language, the majority of Romanians can speak fluent English and usually other languages as well, like German, Italian, French and Spanish, Romanian also being a latin language.

Conclusion

In conclusion, my research at University Politehnica of Bucharest was a valuable experience for me personally as well as academically and offered me important insights to consider for my future career. Also, there are a lot of stories I could tell about my time there, as my experiences were very varied. The atmosphere is generally very warm and relaxed, and if you plan your research well, you won’t feel too pressured or overwhelmed. I am grateful for being supported during my internship by the Erasmus+ grant and to represent RWTH Aachen University and I definitely recommend a stay abroad in Bucharest as I had a wonderful time there.

Writing a master thesis in Norway

November 8th, 2023 | by
  • Molecular and Applied Biotechnology M.Sc.
  • Norway, Longyearbyen
  • UNIS Svalbard
  • 06/2023 – 04/2024

Application/Finding an Internship

The EU project FACE-iT is an international collaboration among several research institutions aimed at studying climate change in Arctic fjords across various trophic levels. Upon discovering the project online, I came across a thesis topic advertised on their website and promptly contacted the responsible professor. Following an online interview, I received confirmation of the suitability of the master thesis project. While the university regularly advertises thesis topics on their website, it’s also beneficial to reach out directly to professors to explore potential topics. Fortunately, I had previous experience with many professors at the University Centre in Svalbard (UNIS) due to my highly recommended bachelor exchange semester there.

© Lina Lettau

Accommodation & Living Expenses

As a UNIS student, you are automatically allocated housing in the student dormitory, managed by Samskipnaden. Applications can be submitted through their website, offering various options, including a single room with a shared kitchen for approximately 10 people (510€), sharing a room with one other student, or one to two-person apartments with individual kitchens. Living expenses in Longyearbyen are on par with mainland Norway, making them approximately double the cost of living in Germany. The local supermarket impressively stocks a wide range of fresh fruits and vegetables for those who can afford them.

© Lina Lettau

Given the town’s small size, there aren’t many other ways to spend your money (except for drinks at one of the four bars), so most of my expenses went towards food and outdoor equipment.

Everyday Life/The Internship

My internship focused on marine molecular ecology, leading to a varied daily routine. This ranged from boat samplings in the summer to molecular lab work in the autumn, and data exploration during the polar night. Fieldwork days can be quite extensive from my experience. Nevertheless, the average Norwegian workday appeared to be a standard 9 to 5, except when the skies cleared after an extended period of overcast weather. In such cases, the department would empty as everyone ventured out for skiing or hiking. In terms of social life, if you come to Longyearbyen thinking you’re at the end of the world and should lead a hermit-like existence, think again. You’ll be living in student housing with approximately 200 people, and activities like hikes, ice climbing, skiing, snowmobile tours, games, dinner parties, knitting, puzzles, and movie nights are popular. Weekends were often spent in rural cabins outside of town.

Free Time/Tips

Two months before:

Ensure your passport is up-to-date. No visa is required, but you’ll be traveling outside of the EU.

© Lina Lettau

Book your flights with SAS or Norwegian; if you’re under 26, they offer youth discounts.

Apply for a certificate of good conduct (Fuehrungszeugnis) in English and bring it with you. Guns are carried for polar bear protection outside of town, and you’ll receive rifle training upon arrival (no prior experience needed).

Two weeks before:

Stock up on items that might not be available or could be expensive in the one and only super market Longyearbyen. For me, this included tea, dried soy and seitan, drawing supplies, batteries, tech equipment, toiletries, fairy lights, analog photo films, guitar strings, and hair scissors.

Join all relevant Facebook groups, as Longyearbyen heavily relies on them. The most important ones include Ros & Info Longyearbyen (providing information on ongoing events and occurrences in town), Kjøp/salg/bytte/gi bort – Longyearbyen (an online second-hand marketplace), and Svalbard studies spring/autumn semester 20XX (with “XX” representing the year, depending on when you are here).

© Lina Lettau

Upon Arrival:

Explore Bruktikken, a donation-based free shop with a diverse range of items, including clothing, books, equipment, decoration, electronics, and more. You can even find second-hand bedsheets and towels there, so don’t overpack. Pro-tip: Work there and sort through the latest donations for yourself while earning money.

Become a member of Svalbard Turn to access the gym, swimming facilities, climbing, and various social sports.

Attend Sprakcafe on Mondays in the library to practice Norwegian while mingling with locals in town.

I also warmly recommend thoroughly reading the UNIS website section on Arrival and living in Longyearbyen – UNIS.

Conclusion:

My research experience at UNIS in Longyearbyen was a valuable opportunity that deepened my understanding of climate change in the unique Arctic ecosystem of Svalbard. Natural sciences and the great outdoors converge in a way that few other places on earth offer.

Internship in Paris

November 8th, 2023 | by
  • Architecture B.Sc.
  • France, Paris
  • LAN Architecture
  • 04/2023 – 10/2023

After finishing my bachelor’s degree in Aachen, I planned to do an internship in an architecture firm in Paris.

© Anthony Feghali

Reworking my portfolio was time-consuming because I had to translate all the texts into French. I would recommend anyone who has to submit similar application documents to plan enough time for this.
The internship search turned out to be relatively relaxed at first, as I received feedback quickly and didn’t have
to send out too many applications overall.
I had 2 interviews that were promising. What was particularly exciting was that I hadn’t spoken French for
a long time, especially I didn’t know business French. So I spent the week before the interviews talking to
myself, in everyday life to warm up again.
The two offices I liked gave me more or less a commitment in the interview, I just had to get back to them
and confirm. With this information in mind, I decided to opt for one of the offices and wrote to them, but
they replied that they didn’t have the capacity for it at the moment. The second office I wrote to did not
answer me for quite some time, while the time was getting closer and I had to look for flats.

I took a month to look for a flat. It’s difficult to plan longer in advance as most listings are uploaded quite
spontaneously. My cousin living in Paris helped me to find out which neighbourhoods are preferable and
what prices are reasonable. In a city like Paris, there are a lot of flat ads but also a lot of scams, so you
should be especially careful. After I had been looking on the usual platforms for a while, I searched for
ads in Paris on ‘ WG-gesucht’, a German flat platform, and actually found something. German tenants in
Paris often advertise there for possible new tenants. So I finally came across a very nice couple in their

© Anthony Feghali

40s. They both work either in the theatre or in the film sector and therefore know a bit about the cultural
scene in Paris.
My room was about 12 square metres in a 55 square metre flat, which was relatively spacious by Parisian
standards. With a rent of 760€ per month, I was around the upper average. The flat was in the 19th
arrondissement, inside the ring road near the Parc de La Vilette, Paris’ largest park. This neighbourhood
is very well connected and, with its location by the canal and between two large parks, is in a not so
densely built-up area, which is very nice for walking or jogging. It took me no more than 20 minutes by
bike to get to work, and I could ride along the canal.

My employment at LAN Architects lasted 6 months. This office consists of about 25 employees aged
20-40.When I arrived and for the first few weeks I was shocked. There seemed to be a strict and tense
atmosphere in the air. My colleagues were very much among themselves and it was relatively difficult to
get access to them.
The office was largely made up of Italians, as the boss is Italian, which unfortunately often resulted in

© Anthony Feghali

groupings and conversations in Italian that were hard to follow. I was also not used to their working
hours. A normal day started at 10 a.m. and ended between 7 and 7:30 p.m., sometimes longer or shorter.
Although everyone had a contractual working time of 35 hours a week, they worked overtime every day,
which was rarely recovered. As a trainee, I tried to stick a bit more to the 35 hours, but this didn’t always
work, especially in the beginning. So for the future, I would recommend that aspiring interns clarify the
working hours in advance or any arrangements for overtime. What I had difficulties with in my day-to-day
work were the long hours at my desk. From my studies, I was used to taking my breaks in such a way
that I always had something to move around, but in the office this was not so common.
Gradually, relationships in the office became more relaxed and I began to integrate myself more and
more. This was helped by the office parties that were organised when staff left. Unfortunately, there was a
high fluctuation of staff, as the working environment was not easy, especially with the two bosses. I later
learned that the office is known among architects for having a high work pressure with strict bosses.
So we often went out for a drink after work or did something with some colleagues at the weekend.
Unfortunately, the best time I had with my colleagues was at the end of the internship when it was time to
leave. But that’s probably how it is when you’re there for a short time. The office was planned and built by
the managers. It had a perfect location in the 11th arrondissement on the top two floors with a roof
terrace, so you could eat lunch with a beautiful view over the Parisian mansard roofs.

Since France, unlike other countries, has national regulations for internships, and these can only be
completed as school internships, the pay is also lower than in neighbouring countries. My salary was

© Anthony Feghali

around 550 € per month. With the Erasmus grant, which was about the same, I had 1100 a month at my
disposal, as my parents paid for my room. I got by on 800 euros a month. The cost of living in Paris is
very high.
This applies to supermarket shopping, restaurants, bars and snack bars. For example, a pint of beer
costs around 8 euros in a traditional pub, and 10 euros in a restaurant. So you couldn’t always afford to
go out for a drink, or you knew the special low-priced bars.
During the working day, I also tried to cook for the week, but that didn’t work for all days, because after
the late end of the working day, you also wanted to have time for leisure and not have to cook again
immediately. But since eating out often cost just as much as eating out in the supermarket, it was worth it
if I was unable to cook. It must also be said that half of the French capital consists of great restaurants
and brasseries that are part of Parisian culture.
One reason that brought me to Paris was the city’s cultural heritage and offerings. I often spent my free
time in the beautiful museums or libraries of Paris or at events such as concerts, jazz evenings or with
friends in the cafés of Paris. I tried to explore a new place or visit a new museum every week. However, I
can say that I only saw a fraction of the city, as it is so rich in things to do and beautiful places to see. At
the same time, you like to revisit places you already like. So it’s a balance act between discovery and
relaxation.

© Anthony Feghali

I would recommend to anyone who is there for a longer period of time not to use the metro and instead
take the bike, and every now and then after work or on weekends try different routes and see where it
takes you. It’s guaranteed that if you keep your eyes open curiously, all sorts of different scenes will
reveal themselves.

I could probably write pages and pages about the city, and about my time here, because the experience
here is very varied. It wasn’t just enthusiasm, but varied from fascination to frustration about the cramped
living conditions, the density or the hustle and bustle of this city. This is probably also part of the Paris
experience. I can recommend a stay here to anyone who speaks some French and is interested in
culture, cities or people. I learned and understood a lot about myself in the confrontation with this way of
life here. Even though I know that I don’t want to live here forever, this time was very special and I would
repeat it.

Research stay at Georgia Institute of Technology

November 3rd, 2023 | by
  • Aerospace Engineering M.Sc.
  • USA, Atlanta
  • Georgia Institute of Technology, Aerospace System Design Laboratory (ASDL)
  • 05/2023 – 09/2023

Application and Preparation

There has been a long-standing relationship between the Institute of Aerospace Systems (ILR) and the renowned Aerospace System Design Laboratory (ASDL) in Atlanta. Due to my activities as a bachelor student and as a student assistant for many years at ILR, I was given the unique opportunity to spend a research period at ASDL and to work there. The cooperation exists between the professors at both institutes.

Tech Tower of Georgia Institute of Technology
© Johannes Götz

In November 2022, I started planning and approached ILR about my desire to go there. Due to the choice of my area of work – the ASDL has six great research branches – the visa issuance and the related working documents took a few months. In May 2023, I could already start working remotely and got to know the team. From July until the end of September, I was on site at the Laboratory and worked there as a research assistant. Since I worked in a project belonging to the Defense & Space division, I had to wait some time for my DS-2019 (important work permit).

Accommodation and Living Situation in Atlanta

Finding housing in Atlanta is proving to be difficult. You must be careful at what time you are there because the semester times are very different from ours. In the summer, it is relatively easy to get an apartment for subletting. Facebook groups are excellent for this purpose. However, as always with such portals you must be warned of potential scammers. I first moved into a shared apartment and later into an Airbnb because the semester starts again at the end of August and the apartment search is extremely difficult then. The rental costs are at least about 1500$ per month. Georgia Tech supports you with the purchase of a monthly ticket for the local bus and train transport, called MARTA.

View of Atlanta Midtown from Piedmont Park
© Johannes Götz

These cost $66 per month and the network is well developed by American standards. From time to time, buses and trains are cancelled, but with the appropriate apps and enough scheduled time, I had no problems moving freely in Atlanta and the surrounding area. At night, however, you just must watch out and always be aware of your surroundings. Atlanta can be dangerous at night but also very beautiful. Common sense is highly recommended here and in case of emergency, you should always use services like Uber or Lyft. On Georgia Tech’s campus, there are several bus lines that make regular stops during the week, so it’s easy to get anywhere. I don’t recommend biking because of the traffic and the heat in the summer, though of course it depends on how far away you live.

The Work

I was working in the Defense & Space division on a project that dealt with the active removal of space debris and developed corresponding systems. My activities included work with complex FEM software, simulation of spacecraft control and simulation of the satellite systems and practical tests on tensile testing machines as well as larger test environments for validation and verification of the performed simulation work. It was a joint project between different laboratories and research institutes. NASA engineers were consolidating every couple of weeks.  Various other institutions were involved in the project besides the

View over south campus from Georgia Tech’s library. Left side view is Downtown, right side is the Coca-Cola headquarter.
© Johannes Götz

Aerospace System Design Laboratory. The most important were Georgia Tech Research Institute, Space System Design Laboratory, various NASA labs, and Georgia Tech’s College of Design. Because of this diversity of partners, meetings were always necessary to keep each other up to date. I worked together with 8 other Graduate Research Assistants. In parallel to my work, I was still working on the DLR Design Challenge remotely. My working hours were 9am-5pm and I spent every day at the institute but was also able to work from home at times. The project does not fall under US export control yet, which made it possible to work in this sector as a foreigner. So, it was a unique opportunity to get to know US work in the space sector.

Georgia Aquarium is one of the largest aquariums in the world. A must-see!
© Johannes Götz

Free Time and Tips for Atlanta

Atlanta offers a wide range of activities, all of which are accessible by bus and train. Besides the famous attractions like the Georgia Aquarium, Hall of Fame College Football, the World of Coca-Cola and the huge Mercedes-Benz Stadium, there are also beautiful parks. Take a walk through the Botanical Garden or visit the photo spot in Piedmont Park overlooking the Midtown skyline. Many series and movies have been filmed in and around Atlanta, including Stranger Things and The Walking Dead. Some movie locations exist in reality and can be visited. A trip to Hawkings Lab from the series Stranger Things, for example, was very memorable. At the Mall of Georgia, movies are shown in real (!) IMAX format. A trip there to see Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer was very worthwhile. A trip to Buckhead to visit the design and art museums and see the town there is also ideal for spending free time. For American football, field hockey or – the Americans call it soccer – football fans, there is a wide range of things to do, and watching an authentic football game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium was an unforgettable experience. For connoisseurs and lovers of the famous Rocky Horror Picture Show I can only recommend to experience it with authentic disguises and get a quasi-4D cinema show.

High Museum of Art in north Midtown
© Johannes Götz

The food scene in Atlanta is diverse and a culinary feast for the eyes. Excellent fried chicken, barbecue and coffee shops make you forget the hot summer temperatures there. Rooftop pool parties and cooking together as well as barbecuing together were also part of the everyday unwinding after work.

Typical college football game at GT’s home stadium. Go Yellow Jackets!
© Johannes Götz

Conclusion

My research stay in Atlanta was a great enrichment for me personally and an optimal opportunity to apply what I had learned at RWTH and to actively participate in a professional work environment. In addition to the linguistic education, I was able to learn a lot of positive things about American culture. There, a healthy competitive spirit, and a positive attitude towards passionate ambition prevail. These attributes are much more practiced in the U.S. than I thought. The idea of a life’s dream or achieving a good life’s goal is strong there. The students see themselves together in a team, and they also encourage each other to overcome difficult phases in life. I will carry this optimistic and motivating attitude forward. It is a great opportunity for a RWTH student to be able to do such research stays and to represent RWTH and Germany abroad.

Writing a master thesis at KTM Forschungs & Entwicklungs GmbH in Austria

October 31st, 2023 | by
  • Automotive Engineering and Transport M.Sc.
  • Austria, Salzburg
  • KTM Forschungs & Entwicklungs GmbH
  • 04/2023 – 09/2023

During this summer semester I did an internship at KTM in Mattighofen, Austria to work on my master thesis. It was a great experience and I totally recommend both, Austria and the company KTM, for an internship abroad.

Application process

In November 2023, I started looking for job postings for a master thesis for the summer semester 2023. I did not particularly look for advertisements abroad, but it was always an option to write my master thesis abroad. Writing your master thesis in a company is an excellent way to recommend yourself for a future employment. At the time of my application, KTM did not offer any master thesis in the relevant fields in their job portal. So, I decided to write a speculative application. I can recommend everyone to do the same if you are interested in a specific company. Often, the departments already have ideas for topics for a thesis, but these have not yet been published as a job advertisement. A few days after my application, I was contacted by the HR department to make an appointment for an interview. At this appointment, the company presented several topics that would have been possible for the master’s thesis. The application process was clearly structured and the HR department always kept me updated.

After finding a company for the master thesis, you need to find a supervisor at university. This can be very challenging. I could not accept an offer from another company be

View on Attersee and Mondsee from Großer Schoberstein
© Lukas Rehermann

cause I could not find a supervisor at the university in a reasonable amount of time. In general, I would advise you to ask multiple institutes for supervision at the same time. Even tough I study automotive engineering, my master thesis was not supervised by one of the institutes, which are directly related to automotive engineering, but by a more general mechanical engineering institute. For most institutes, you can see their detailed research fields on their website. The fastest way is to contact the research assistants of the relevant research field directly.

For the Erasmus scholarship application, you need a learning agreement. When I had to submit the application, my learning agreement was not signed by the faculty yet. I could hand in the learning agreement afterwards. In general, applying for the Erasmus internship grant requires less effort than applying for an Erasmus semester at a university. This is mostly related to the recognition process at your faculty.

 

Accommodation and Living Expenses

After the acceptance by the company, it was time for me to start looking for accommodation. Since Mattighofen is a relatively small town, I looked for shared apartments in Salzburg. The commute from Salzburg to Mattighofen takes about 45 minutes by car or one hour by train. In general, the accommodation search in Salzburg was rather difficult. Especially the fact that I was looking for a room for half a year led to one or the other rejection. I only found a room in a shared apartment a few days before starting work, even though I started looking for a room almost 3 months in advance.

In general, living expenses in Austria are a bit higher than in Germany. Buying groceries and eating in restaurants is more expensive. If you have a car, you can drive to Freilassing in Germany to buy cheaper groceries there. For my room in a shared flat I paid 500 € per month including utilities.

The salaries in Austria for interns are usually higher than in Germany, especially if you already have a bachelor’s degree. Then, the company has to pay you a minimum salary defined in the relevant Kollektivvertrag (collective labor agreement).

 

Everyday life/the internship

I worked in the vehicle dynamics team at KTM. Of course, most of the time I worked on the research topics of my master thesis. In addition, my colleagues and my supervisor showed me their work, so that I can get a broader overview what the vehicle dynamics team is doing overall. For example, I could sometimes join them on the test track. I felt very comfortable in the team. If I had any questions, everyone took time to help me.

In addition, I was very satisfied with the supervision by university. When writing an external master thesis, it is your job as a student to reconcile the requirements of university and the company. This was eased by the approaches of my supervisors. We agreed that the company was responsible for the research scope requirements and that the university was in lead for the requirements about the documentation. Nevertheless, the university’s supervisor contributed many helpful ideas and provided approaches to solve problems during the research.

Some words about the working conditions: my full-time contract included 38,5 hours per week. I had flexible work time with core times and could take days off using overtime (maximum one day per week). You can work from home maximum 2 days per week. Of course, this also depends on your tasks. In Austria, you usually have 5 weeks of holidays per year. KTM offers many additional benefits for their employees.

View on the city of Salzburg from Gaisberg
© Lukas Rehermann

Free time/tips

Austria in general is a great destination for an Erasmus semester or internship if you are into outdoor activities. The landscape in the area around Salzburg is amazing! Almost every weekend I went hiking, mountain biking, or similar. I would definitely recommend doing some hikes in Salzkammergut and combine this with swimming in one of the lakes afterwards.

Salzburg is a beautiful city with an amazing old town. There is always something to explore. In addition, many students live in Salzburg. If you try to connect with other people outside work, contact the ESN Salzburg even though you are not an Erasmus student at University of Salzburg. They organize many events, and you can try to connect with other Erasmus students via their WhatsApp group chat.

 

Conclusion

All in all, I am super happy with my decision to write the master thesis in Austria. I enjoyed the stay there and made many new friendships. I would recommend this to everyone who is interested in going abroad. In the end, I continue working at KTM after finishing my master’s degree.

It is to mention, that an Erasmus internship is a completely different experience than studying at university abroad. Before going to Austria, I already did two Erasmus semesters at universities. When studying, you are way more flexible in planning your free time, for example for travelling. But of course, this does not mean that you do not have any free time during an internship. Especially if you have flexible work time, you can find enough opportunities to extend your weekends for travelling and exploring the country.

Writing a master thesis at Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg

October 31st, 2023 | by
  • Chemical Engineering M.Sc.
  • Sweden, Gothenburg
  • Chalmers tekniska högskola
  • 04/2023 – 09/2023

Application/Finding an internship

The interest of going abroad was raised in a presentation of my home institute AVT, when they presented their different possibilities for exchange programs in other countries. And since I still wanted to live in another country for a period and improve my English skills, I haven chosen for Sweden. Sounds weird in the first place because Sweden is not officially an English-speaking country. However, I knew that almost all Sweds can fluently speak English. Therefore, I applied at AVT for the exchange of writing my master thesis at Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden. The exchange between AVT and Chalmers is not a typical type of exchange program that is embedded officially in a Erasmus+ program, but more an agreement between both AVT and the Energy Technology Division of Chalmers. After a while I received feedback from AVT that I can go there in Summer 2023.

Deers in my backyard.
© Jannik Bothe

However, since the Professor of Chalmers, who has organized the exchange in the past, has left to another University, I had to apply informally to one of the professors at the Energy Technology Division. I then sent my application to a professor who luckily accepted me as well and so the first step of organizing my exchange was done.

Accomodation & Living expenses

As I already read that finding a good accommodation for a reasonable price can be difficult in Gothenburg, I immediately started to queue in for student housing at the student union. For Chalmers, there are the SGS and Chalmers Studentbostäder, which both offers single and shared rooms for students for low prices. However, the queues are extraordinarily long so that normally students must wait for more than one year to get the chance of renting such an accommodation. Therefore, the hope was not too high to get such a chance, and in December 2022 the hope was completely gone as I heard from my Professor at Chalmers that I won’t be enrolled as a student at Chalmers during my exchange. Unfortunately, Chalmers changed some of their regulations for exchange students that are not in an official exchange program, so that officially I was at Chalmers just as an intern. And interns can’t apply for student housing.

The tropical house in Universeum.
© Jannik Bothe

I then started to search for private accommodation on housinganywhere.com and eventually got lucky with a room in a shared flat with three other people. Housinganywhere is a platform designed for exchange students coming from other countries. When renting a room or an apartment, the first rent is paid to Housinganywhere, and they are sending it to the landlord. In any case something went wrong, or one is fooled by the landlord, Housinganywhere will give you the money back for the first rent, which gave me a good feeling since I had to rent this room without visiting the house or seeing the room in advance.

The room was fully furnished and around 16 m² big. Together with three other students I shared the ground floor with them. We had a very nice and well-equipped kitchen and a – I would say – pretty nature-like garden. It was not a typical student house with many flat, but more a house, which might be built and used by a family in the past. The house was in very calm housing estate in the south-east of Gothenburg called Lunden. In total, my room was 6000 SEK per month, which was around 530 € at that time.

The living cost are generally higher in Sweden than in Germany. However, prices were not that high as I expected them before I came since the prices in Germany for example in the supermarkets got already high due to inflation. In total, I would say that living expenses were around 20 % higher compared to Germany.

Seeing moos in Slottsskogen park.
© Jannik Bothe

Everyday life/ the internship

After arrival, I went to the university the day after and was kindly welcomed by my new colleagues at the division. My supervisor showed me everything important at the division and has already organized me a desk in advance. From then on, I started to dive into my project with reading into literature and defining the scope. I had the possibility to work from home. However, since the working atmosphere was nice, I went to the division almost every day. Therefore, my every-day-life was more like a typical working-life with a good structure. And since I did not have to take any other courses, I had enough time during the week so that I had not to work on weekends during the whole period of my exchange and was still good in time. In general, I must say that the support my supervisors at Chalmers and my supervisor from AVT was excellent. I never had the problem of not making progress or going into a completely wrong direction. I also have to say that the colleagues of the Division of Energy Technology at Chalmers are so kind and helpful. Everyone offered my help in any case, and I always felt welcome there.

Seeing one of hundreds of lakes during a hike around Gothenburg.
© Jannik Bothe

Free time/tips

For me, free time was highly influenced by the people I me there. Due to my flat mates, I already had a group of people who I shared my free time with. We often were out for a BBQ or on parties, enjoyed the nature or city together or just hang out. Besides spending time with my friends, I enjoyed nature either while running or hiking in the woods. Around Gothenburg there are mainly two long hiking paths called Bohusleden and Gotaleden, which I can highly recommend to everyone who loves nature. The track can be found online, but navigation along the track is not needed since there are sings every 100 meters. Besides hiking, Gothenburg itself offers many possibilities to spend time. My favorite places were the park Slottsskogen where you can see Moos, Kafé Magasinet (delicious pizza & beer), Universeum and Liseberg. Additionally, one should look out for concerts which might take place during the stay. In the stadium Ullevi, many great artists show concerts, and I visited Coldplay there, which was breathtaking. Below, you can find some impressions of my free time in Gothenburg.

Conclusion

Coldplay concert at Ullevi.
© Jannik Bothe

Summarized, the stay in Gothenburg was a very nice experience and a good way to end my whole student life. Even though I sometimes missed my friends and family, I enjoyed my time there, met and got nice friends and can always remember back with a smile on my face. I can recommend Sweden and particularly Gothenburg to everyone who wants to make a new experience outside Germany.

Research Internship in Santa Barbara

October 25th, 2023 | by
  • Chemistry M.Sc.
  • United States of America, Santa Barbara
  • University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB)
  • 05/2023 – 09/2023
  1. Application/Finding an internship

Studying Chemistry M.Sc. at RWTH Aachen University comes with three mandatory research internships which optionally can be completed at an external institution. Inspired by a talk at a conference I contacted the professor via e-mail asking for a research stay about nine months in advance. After her approval the administrative process including some visa guidance was handled by the Department of Chemical Engineering and the Office of International Students and Scholars (OISS) at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB).

Applying early, I got the visa about four months in advance. The OISS at UCSB is an approved J1-sponsor. Several documents were required by the Department of Chemical Engineering and/or the OISS. I needed proof of health insurance, financial proof and a language certificate among others. The DS-2019 was issued by OISS at UCSB and is required for the visa application. Additionally, a SEVIS fee is required prior to the visa interview. In my case, the interview waiver applied which allowed me to send in my passport to the

Engineering Science Building
© Elisabeth Richter

consulate in Frankfurt and have it sent back to me once the visa was approved.

Applying early, I had plenty of time between the approved visa and my starting date so I could book my flight and look for an accommodation several weeks in advance. Since I was a visiting grad student not taking any classes I was not enrolled as a UCSB student and did not have to pay any tuition fees but also did not get the student benefits.

 

  1. Accommodation & Living expenses

    Recreation Center
    © Elisabeth Richter

Housing options are either student housing on and off campus or private housing in Isla Vista, Goleta area or Downtown Santa Barbara. The latter requires a daily commute by bus or car to the campus whereas the other options are within walking or biking distance.

As a visiting grad scholar, I was not eligible for student housing. I found a nice host parents arrangement living with up to two other students via a private housing listing provided by UCSB. Leasing or Subleasing is usually tied to the quarter system. In general, be aware of scams. Compared to Aachen, living expenses are higher in America and particularly high in the Santa Barbara area. For a single room about $1300 per month are common whereas doubles or triples are usually a little cheaper. Compared to Aachen, my expenses for groceries went up 1.5 to 2 times. Even though going out is much more common I had a lot of self-cooked meals. In general, fruits and vegetables are more expensive. For fresh, organic fruits and vegetables I recommend the farmers market which serves the best sourdough bread I had during my stay.

 

  1. Everyday life/the internship

    Campus Point Beach
    © Elisabeth Richter

Biking is the way to go around on the UCSB campus. The best chances to not get one’s bike stolen is in having a cheap bike and a U-lock. Used bikes can be purchased in a bike shop in Isla Vista or online. Outside of campus busses as public transportation are an option but depending on where to go cars might be the only choice.

Major food options on campus are in the UCen building serving sandwiches, burgers, and American Chinese food among others. In addition, there are cafes distributed throughout the campus selling mostly sandwiches and snacks.

The research group I visited provided lab space as well as a desk in the offices. Working with several colleges on a project I was fully integrated in the group during my stay. On average, I had biweekly meetings with my professor at UCSB discussing my research progress and giving valuable input. I attended the weekly group meeting taking turns in presenting one’s research progress and recent literature.

I usually worked in the lab on weekdays and used the evenings and weekends to explore the area. The recreation center offers intermural, fitness and dancing classes among others. The campus is right next to the ocean and always worth a visit. Part of the campus is the Campus Point which beach area is suitable for beginners in surfing.

One thing to keep in mind is that I stayed at UCSB during the summer which is way quieter than throughout the rest of the year. Same goes for the research group because of the lack of lectures but professors might not be available each week due to travelling to conferences or summer schools.

  1. Free time/tips

The campus itself is beautiful and a walk around the campus lagoon is a must. You can get a great view of the campus from the upper floor of the Davidson’s library both towards the mountains and the ocean. I highly recommend spending time at the ocean and watching a lot of sunsets. The surf class by the USCB recreation center is a lot of fun. They provide surfboards and wetsuits during the lessons and there is also a rental option at Campus Point Beach.

Campus and Storke Tower
© Elisabeth Richter

Going out there are some bars and breweries in the Goleta area to check out (beers can be purchased starting from about $7; remember the legal drinking age of 21) and even more options in Downtown Santa Barbara. The bus ride to Downtown takes 35 to 55 minutes. Alternatively, there is a 10-mile bike path connecting UCSB and Downtown Santa Barbara. Main attractions are the Santa Barbara Mission, the botanical garden, a walk on State Street and the waterfront. Ferries are connecting Santa Barbara to the Channel Islands National Park which is a great destination for hiking and camping. Whale Watching tours starting in Santa Barbara might go all the way to the Channel Islands seeing dolphins and humpback whales along the trip.

Both Goleta and Santa Barbara are connected to the Pacific Surfliner which goes from San Luis Obispo all the way south to San Diego. The train track itself is right next to the ocean giving this slow way of traveling an amazing view throughout the ride.

 

  1. Conclusion

My research stay at UCSB was a fascinating journey. I broadened my knowledge in Chemistry and gained a lot of new experiences on the personal level as well. Even though it took me some time to get used to the different culture I enjoyed the way of life. Within time, communicating in everyday English became natural and I understand and highly acknowledge the American humor by now. I met great people along the way to which I will catch up eventually. I highly encourage a stay abroad.

Surgical Rotation in Luxembourg

October 25th, 2023 | by
  • Medicine
  • Luxembourg, Esch-sur-Alzette
  • Centre Hospitalier Emile Mayrisch
  • 07/2023 – 10/2023

Application process

© Lea Elsholz

After having done an internship („Famulatur“) in France earlier in my study program, I wanted to return to a French-speaking country. One might argue about whether or not that applies to Luxemburg – but more of that later. A friend from university, originating from Luxemburg, highly recommended all Luxemburgish hospitals (there’s only 3 of them) for an internship. Unfortunately, I had already missed the application deadline for the CHL in Luxemburg city – that is the in-country PJ application deadline of the University of Heidelberg, Germany, that CHL is affiliated to as academic teaching hospital. Luckily, the University of Saarland in Homburg, Germany, was very cooperative and offered one of their still-open places for my surgical rotation at Centre Hospitalier Emile Mayrisch (CHEM) in Esch-sur-Alzette. As I am studying at RWTH Aachen University they just required a copy of my last exam („M2“) and some general information (the usual health certificates etc.). All other communication was led by  the responsible person for the medical students at CHEM.

 

Accomodation & Living expenses

Exchange students get offered free accomodation in relative proximity to the CHEM, organised by the hospital. There was a 150€ security guaranty that is reimbursed some days after the end of the internship if everything is ok with the flat. Alternatively, one gets 400€/month instead of an accomodation. In Luxemburg, it’d be kind of a miracle to rent a flat short-time on these terms… it’s only interesting for those who have family or friends in Luxemburg they can stay with, as e.g. Luxemburgish medical students studying abroad would do. The flat was a shared apartment in a only some-year old building for up to 6 flat mates. During my stay, I only had 1 flat mate for the last 3 weeks. The student before me was living with up to 2-3 flat mates at a time – as far as I heard, it would rarely happen that the flat was fully booked. There are 6 rooms that all open on a long balcony and have their own bathrooms. At the end of the balcony, there is a common room with shared kitchen (2 sinks, 2 fridges etc.), cooking space and microwave. In the basement, there is washing machines and dryers (3€ each). The flats are located in Belval, an emerging urban space 2-3 km from Esch, close to the French border. There is shopping centers, restaurants, a cinema, bus stops and the train station all in <10 minutes walking distance.

Longer-term interns (several months) seem usually to get offered this type of accomodation. There were also 2 international students doing 4-week internships that lived in another shared apartment with students from different programs somewhere else in Esch.

© Lea Elsholz

The public transport is free for everyone in all of Luxemburg (meaning the whole country, including the city as well as regional trains) for some years now, so there aren’t any costs for taking buses or trains. Also, there are e-bike stations that can be freely used with a personal card (no fee), mostly, these are more or less ridable and there’s a lot of e-bike stations all over the region. The program is called „Vel’ok“. As I spent my summer doing the internship, I often took the bike from or to work. This is especially nice as there’s a newly built bridge for bikes and pedestrians linking Belval and Esch-sur-Alzette (the „Velodukt“).

In exchange for the free transport, shopping prices are about 1.5x the German ones.

Fortunately, the hospital also offers free meals to the medical students, limitless – so if you really try, you could have a quick breakfast in the morning, then lunch in the cafeteria and also buy a sandwich for the evening. The offer in the cafeteria is quite ok, vegetarian options are rather scarce so there’s not much difference to the hospital cafeterias I got to know in Germany.

 

Everyday life / the internship

As usual in surgery, my days started early at about 7.15 am. We did get all clothes, an own phone, access cards and an own account for the intra-hospital digital patient-care system from the hospital. I spent half of my internshiop in orthopedics/trauma surgery and the other one in general & vascular surgery. I also got to see some operations by the plastic surgeons, both aesthetic and reconstructive ones. In the morning, I would go to the OR where the surgery program started at about 7.30 am. Only in general surgery, the responsible doctor (which is the teaching responsible of the University of Saarland) wants the medical students to do rounds on his patients before joining the team in the OR.

In most of the Luxemburgish health system and all of CHEM, the doctors are independent and also the interns (= german „Assistenzärzt:innen“) are employed by the doctors and not the hospital (similar to german „Belegärzt:innen“). Thus, the surgeons see their patients either in their doctor’s office or in consultation in the hospital’s polyclinic, operate on them and are responsible for the post-operative treatment as well as the follow-up. Therefore, there is no department chiefs, collective rounds or department meetings. Most of the doctors work together in groups, sharing expenses for their office and helping each other out when on holiday etc. From what I experienced, this system reduces competitive behavior between doctors while also producing more diverse treatment concept due to less hierarchies also concerning the details of patient care.

There also is no intern solely responsible for the ward, so ward-related work is done before, after or in between surgery (and yes, that results in a lot of wo

© Lea Elsholz

rk for the interns – on the other hand already 1st-year interns spend a lot of time in the OR compared to German interns).

We students were expected to show up in the OR and participate in the surgeries. In ortho/trauma I was quite free to choose every day which doctor and surgery I wanted to work with/see. In general/vascular, I was mentored by one of the interns and mostly followed his rotation plan. We usually weren’t planned as assistants for surgery, though sometimes doctors asked for us to assist when they were short on interns. All other times, most of the doctors were really nice, let us scrub in/do 2nd assistance and gave explanations.

On the practical plan, the interns usually let me do the skin and sometimes subcutaneous sutures. Apart from the usual „passive“ surgery assistance, I also do smaller tasks like take out some osteosynthetis material or do a varice stripping. In the policlinic, I was cleaning and bandaging wounds, taking out sutures etc.

There wasn’t really regular teaching sessions though there is 2 conferences students are expected to attend, the vascular conference on Mondays from 4 to 4.30 pm and the Morbidity&Mortality conference on Wednesdays from 4 to 4.30 pm where students rotate doing presentations of either clinical cases or disease-treatment related content. There was a really good 2 hrs workshop on how to treat chronic wounds, organized by the hospital’s wound management team that I’d highly recommend.

Lunch break was nearly always possible for us students, though you often had to organize it yourself as most surgeons just operated until the end of the program (around 2.30 pm).

We were always welcome to join consultations in the policlinic. The emergency patients were covered by emergency doctors, so there were no surgeons regularly assigned to the emergency room. Still, students doing their surgical or internal rotation could also go there.

 

I was surprised by the really good atmosphere (of course there are always some exceptions or bad days) in ortho/trauma, re-examinating my prejudices about what to expect in a team of (mostly male) surgeons. Sadly, I got to taste some of that chauvinist-discriminating vibe when switching to general/vascular and once more got used to invent all kinds of reactions on non-appropriate „jokes“. Apart from that, I really felt welcomed by everyone, doctors as nurses and medical assistants in the OR.

Speaking of – if you’re a linguophil, Luxemburg is definitely worth a visit: Having French and Luxemburgish as official languages, Luxemburger communicate in wild combinations of Luxemburgish, German, French, Portuguese and Italian, naming just the most common (mother) tongues. For students from Hungary and Ukraine, they also switched to English, leaving me with a language bursting headache for the first weeks until I got used to it – and really enjoyed the Babel situation. A lot of nurses originate from France, Belgium or Luxemburg, so speaking French is nice for interdisciplinary communication and also patients. The surgeons were mainly German or French speaking as there is no full medical curriculum in Luxemburg.

 

Free time / Tips

To be honest, I spent my first 2 week-ends recovering from work – it was my 3rd rotation and still, getting up at 6 am, together with the physically at least medium-demanding work in the OR and the new environment consumed my energies. After that, I usually went on trips on Saturdays and chilled on Sundays – it’s really hard to do anything else than hiking in Luxemburg on Sundays as most restaurants etc. are closed for the day.

© Lea Elsholz

Luxemburg has really beautiful and diverse nature: I went hiking in the north around Clervaux. There, I also visited the great photo exhibition „The Family of Man“ by Edward Steichen which belongs to the UNESCO World Document Heritage. I highly recommend the Mullerthal trail in the south-east, the so-called Small Luxemburg Switzerland. It’s a beautiful hiking trail that can be adapted in various ways and leads through amazing sandstone rocks, crossing forest and creeks. In summer, the „Lac de la Haute-Sûre“ is the place to go to enjoy canoying or swimming surrounded by Auenland-like landscape in very clean water – it’s actually the only free water (bigger lake/river) in the country. Close to Esch, there is a nature reservation called „Ellergronn“ that offers several small hiking trails. The whole Luxemburg south is called „Red Rock Region“ due to all the iron ore deposits that is the basis from which a long industrial story of the region emerged.

Speaking of: there’s two gigantic furnaces that Belval is built around. After having been switched off in the late 90s, they were built into a museum / historical site that can be visited. The view from the middle platform of one of the furnaces is definitely worth the steps and offers another inspiring perspective on the many works of known architects rising around the furnaces and hosting the university as well as private labs and enterprises.

Usually not very fond of urban spaces, I really liked Luxemburg city (shortly called „the city“ among Luxemburgers). The city is build on two levels (upper and lower town) that are linked by a LOT of stairs and steep pathways. The lower town has nearly village vibes with a lot of trees and two creeks flowing through, while the upper town is has a really nice city center, a lot of shopping possibilities (mind your wallet, though), several churches, the grand-duke’s palace of course and again a lot of parks. For those interested in underground research, the „Kasematten“ (kind of catacombs) are a tourist highligh not to miss. On the other side of the Pfaffendal is Kirchberg: Plane fields for a long time, the growing

EU facilities became to much for the inner city of Luxemburg in the early 2000s so they were moved to the opposite hill and a new district emerged, called Kirchberg. Besides impressive modern architecture hosting EU institutions, there’s also a lot of international companies, an arena and Luxemburg Philharmonie.

The cities of Metz (F), Nancy (F) and Trier (D) lie all within a 1-2 hrs drive with public transport and are also worth a trip.

There is a rich cultural program in Esch-sur-Alzette and Luxemburg in general (mind the summer break though). In Belval, there is a big concert hal („Rockhal“), a theatre in Esch and several clubs, theatre, opera etc. in the Luxemburg city. For sports, there is a free climbing hall meant to open soon in Belval itself, there is also indoor climbing possibilites in Luxemburg city. I discovered a really nice dance studio in Schifflange (2-3 km from Esch/Belval), offering Yoga, Pole Dance and Aerial Silk. There’s also a public pool in Esch though unfortunately just an indoor one – Luxemburgers are more likely to have their private pool in their garden, I was told, although I’m afraid that is more of a Luxemburg cliché…

Conclusion

In the hospital, there was a remarkable summer break in August when most doctors were on holiday and there was a really limited program in the OR. All other time of the year, the place is quite busy so I wouldn’t recommend it if one is looking for a beach & chill surgical rotation. If you’re interested in surgery, not afraid of languages and value a good working atmosphere, Luxemburg is the place to go 😊 For more exotic specialities like neurosurgery you’d have to apply to CHL (Heidelberg’s application deadline is June of the year preceding your rotation abroad, as to my knowledge). Also, blood samples are performed by the nurses, so you’ll actually be in the OR

I had a good time in Luxemburg, hospital- as free time-wise, and am thankful to having been supported by the Erasmus+ grant that enriched my stay by really allowing me to get to know the country also outside the hospital.

Research Internship in Dublin

October 20th, 2023 | by
  • Chemistry M.Sc
  • Ireland, Dublin
  • Trinity College Dublin (TCD), Trinity Biomedical Sciences Institute (TBSI)
  • 04/2023 – 09/2023

Application and Preparation

I have thought about completing part of my studies abroad during my master’s degree in chemistry ever since the first semesters of my bachelor’s degree, and because Ireland has always been a very fascinating country to me that I have planned on visiting anyway, I chose Dublin as the place where I wanted to do a research internship. Additionally to the beautiful landscape and the friendly people I envisioned to encounter, Ireland has the advantage of being an English-speaking country with many excellent universities to choose from. During the master’s in chemistry at RWTH Aachen University, students are required to do several research internships in different groups and fields of chemistry, but we are free to select the location and the group, so I decided to do an internship in Ireland instead of a semester abroad where I have to take courses. Therefore, I began applying to different groups about six months before I wanted to start the internship, which is quite late in hindsight, and I would definitely recommend starting earlier. Unfortunately I had the experience that most professors did not answer when I directly applied with a CV and a letter of motivation via e‑mail, which is why I asked a professor from Aachen to help me out in this regard, and that ended up bei

The Trinity Biomedical Science Institute – my workplace.
© Hannah Höche

ng the solution to my problems. After finding a group where I could complete my research internship and agreeing on the duration of the internship and the topic I would be working on, I started applying for Erasmus funding and filling out all necessary documents like the Traineeship Certificate. In addition, I applied for a leave of absence during that semester, which has to be done during the registration period for the following semester.

 

Accommodation and Living Situation in Dublin

Before I start explaining how I found an apartment in Dublin, I want to mention that this city is very, very expensive compared to Aachen and it is a real struggle to find an accommodation, which I was aware of before moving to Dublin, but the rent and the general cost of living is even higher than I would have expected. I would recommend starting to look for an accommodation as soon as possible, since a lot of apartments and rooms are listed for up to a year in advance, so even though I was searching for apartments where I could move in in April 2023, I saw a lot of offers for the following year. I used the popular websites daft.ie and let.ie, where you can also filter options like the number of rooms, the price or the duration of the rent. A lot of apartments and rooms can unfortunately only be rented for at least one year. I also looked up the location of the building I would be working in so I could find an accommodation reasonably near to be able to walk everywhere. In contrast to Germany, where you can use your semester ticket for public transportation, in Ireland you have to pay for every trip, but more on that later.

The Temple Bar.
© Hannah Höche

When finding a suitable apartment, I wrote to the landlord, but the reality is that they rarely answer, especially when the apartments have been uploaded to the websites for a few days. Therefore, I adapted my strategy and I searched for several times during a day to be able to immediately message the landlord when an apartment was uploaded – and I messaged a lot of people. It also helps to have a pre-written text where you only change the address. Sometimes they also offer online tours of the apartment, which is helpful when looking for apartments when still in Germany, but generally I had the experience that tours are in person. I also strongly advise to not just get an accommodation and transferring the money without having seen it and signing a contract, because there are rental scams in Dublin and even the websites of the different universities warn students to be careful. To be able to actually look for apartments and rooms, I would suggest to come to Ireland about one to two weeks before starting the internship or semester and then to actively go to apartment tours. I also prepared all the necessary documents so I could immediately express my interest in the accommodation. Generally, Dublin is divided into two areas by the river Liffey, and the south side is considered to be the “better” and safer area of Dublin. There are student accommodations, but they are also very expensive and generally hard to get, and my professor actually advised against trying to apply for the housing

Howth, a peninsular village and outer suburb of Dublin.
© Hannah Höche

program and instead look for apartments.

 

In addition to the high rent, groceries and other necessities are more expensive than in Germany, so definitely try to save up beforehand. The public transportation also has to be considered, but you can save some money by getting the so-called TFI Leap Card, or the Leap Card for young adults in particular (aged 19 to 23). Although you can get pretty much everywhere by bus or the Luas, especially busses tend to be late and unreliable (at least outside of the city center). In this context, it has to be mentioned that tickets for the busses have to be bought from the bus driver when not using the Leap Card, and only coins are accepted.

Furthermore, I suggest checking with your insurance company whether you are insured for a stay abroad. Regarding phone calls, I just used my existing contract, there was no need to get a new one. Getting Wi-Fi for the apartment was a bit more tricky, because most internet contracts are only for at least a year, so I had to get a “pay as you go contract”, where you pay a certain amount every four weeks before you can use the internet, and I also had to buy a mobile router for that. You generally do not need to carry cash in Ireland (except for the bus as mentioned above), debit cards are widely accepted – if not everywhere. A lot of people also use Revolut (or sometimes PayPal). What I highly recommend is getting a credit card, because a lot of the tours I booked or sights I wanted to see could only be paid using a credit card. The bus companies that are driving to the airport (like Dublin Express or Aircoach) also only accept a credit card.

 

The Internship

I can honestly say that my research internship was one of the best experiences I had so far in a group. My professor Mathias Senge was a wonderful mentor and supervisor, who gave me my own project to work on and I learned a lot of skills that are useful and transferrable to any lab I will be working in in the future. My work day usually began at 9 am and ended at 5 or 6 pm and consisted of synthesizing my target compounds and purifying them, as well as literature research and the usual lab work. We also had regular meetings where we either presented our own research or papers from the literature we found interesting and helpful. I even got the opportunity to visit a conference and present some of my work in the form of a scientific poster. My colleagues in the lab were all incredibly nice and welcoming and helped me with any questions and problems. As for the requirements of the internship, I had to give an introductory talk and a final presentation for both my professor in Dublin and the professor supervising my internship from RWTH Aachen University, and I had to turn in a research report. In addition, I had to write monthly progress reports, but that was expected from my professor in Dublin and may not be a general requirement.

 

Free Time and Tips for Ireland

A lot of the Irish people I met told me that I have not really experienced Ireland if I only visit Dublin, and I can absolutely confirm that, Nevertheless, I want to start with some of the sights of the capital that I really enjoyed. Some of the museums in Dublin (The Dead Zoo, The National Gallery, The Archaeological Museum) are free of charge and definitely worth a visit. There are also several beautiful parks (Phoenix Park, St. Stephen’s Green, …) to enjoy, as well as distilleries that offer tours and tastings. Of course the popular tourist attractions like the Dublin Castle, Christ Church Cathedral or the

The Giant’s Causeway.
© Hannah Höche

Guinness Storehouse are also to mention, but they do cost money. A stroll through Temple Bar and along the river Liffey is also nice and free of cost. One of my favorite things was a visit to the Kilmainham Gaol, where I learned a lot about the history of Ireland – but tickets are very limited, so plan a visit 28 days beforehand to be able to get one (although there are sometimes returned tickets you might be able to get spontaneously). Lastly, a visit to any pub is pretty much a requirement and a lot of them have live music on the weekends, which makes a trip even more enjoyable.

 

Ireland has to offer such a wide variety of landscapes and nature spots, it is difficult to pick only a few. Not far from Dublin and reachable by the DART are Howth and Bray, where you can enjoy Cliff Walks and hiking trails. In order to comfortably travel, I recommend either the Irish Rail, bus services or booking trips from the popular tour operators, whereby the latter are quite expensive. Travelling by train is fairly straightforward and discounted tickets for students (a Young Adult Leap Card is necessary) are offered. The tickets can be bought online, but they have to be printed at the ticket machines at the train station (e.g. Heuston Station). Cities like Cork, Waterford and Killarney are easily reached via the train. Also, as a tip when visiting Cork, a little trip to Cobh, a seaport town and the last departure point of the Titanic, is absolutely recommended.

Cobh, a seaport town on the south coast of County Cork.
© Hannah Höche

In general, trips to Galway and the Cliffs of Moher, Kilkenny, Glendalough or even to Belfast and the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland are an absolute highlight. The latter has to be one of the most beautiful spots I have seen, even though it is hard to pick a favorite. Even though a lot can be travelled by train or bus, some hiking trails or even cities and counties are unfortunately best reached by car.

 

Conclusion

I am incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to spend a whole semester abroad completing a research internship. Not only could I acquire skills and knowledge in the laboratory and grow as a person and chemist, I got to make wonderful friends and see and visit the most beautiful spots I could imagine. My research internship taught me to work independently on my own project, which is very helpful as a preparation for both my master’s thesis and my aspiration to do a PhD. The only negative aspect about my stay abroad is the cost of living in Dublin, which would probably not have been possible for me to pay if I would not have had savings. Otherwise, I think it is an incredible experience to spend some time in another country and get to know the culture, and I would of course recommend Ireland as I really enjoyed my time there.

Research stay in Marseille

October 20th, 2023 | by
  • Chemistry M.Sc
  • France, Marseille
  • Aix-Marseille Université
  • 06/2023 – 09/2023

The possibilities for doing an internship abroad are endless. This made it difficult for me to decide, so I had to narrow down my choices. Thanks to my professor, I got in touch with iSM2 at the University of Aix Marseille in France.  It was a dream for me to live by the sea for once in my life and improve the French I

Climbing in Calanque de Sormiou
© Eveline Jagla

learned in school. I emailed my contact person at iSM2 and she was happy about my interest and offered me an internship right away.

I found my accommodation through the website “La Carte des Coloc”. For a room of about 14 m^2 in an 80 m^2 apartment with 4 bedrooms I paid about 530 € per month. The start was difficult because there was no wifi and no electricity when I arrived. We had no electricity for 3 days and I had to sign a contract with EDF myself. Luckily my contact person at iSM2 helped me with a 30 minute phone call and we had electricity. But the tale of woe with this apartment and the agency “Colivers” would not fit into this report. Short conclusion: I do not recommend “Colivers” to others…. The apartment was located in Castellane, a very good area to live. From Castellane there are two metro lines, one of the three streetcars, many buses going to Cassis, La Ciotat and Marseille beaches and 15 minutes walk to the city center “Vieux Port”. A lot of restaurants are also nearby: McDonalds, Burger King, Vapiano, Go Ramen (5/5!), Shuriken Sushi (5/5!), … The boulangerie is also across the street and open 24 hours. To buy food, there are the supermarkets: Monoprix (super expensive), Franprix (close, small and expensive), Carrefour and Lidl (further away, 10 minutes walk). Compared to Germany, food is more expensive: in the supermarket and in the restaurants. In a bar, beer costs 6-8 € (50 cl) and long drinks for the same price. For a meal in a restaurant you pay between 15 € (cheap) and 23 €. The younger people go to Cours Julien and La pleine. Here there are many bars and restaurants at a cheaper price.

A lab day was always between 9/10 and 17/18. I took the metro and then the bus, which took about 30 minutes. Unlike in Germany, the entrance to the university is guarded.

My Bedroom
© Eveline Jagla

The PhD student I was allowed to work with introduced me to her research and soon I was working independently. I was working on the catalysis of the degradation of cellobiose with LMPO-like catalysts. In a short time, I collected a lot of data using UV-Vis spectroscopy, fluorescence spectroscopy and HPLC. During the group meeting on Friday, I presented my results. The group was mixed with French, Indians, Brazilians, Spanish, Americans and probably more, everyone is welcome, and I felt very comfortable. Since I was there in the summer, the lab was pretty empty, and so was the campus. Everyone was fleeing the heat. I was able to try touch rugby on campus during a couple of practice sessions. It was a lot of fun, and I was sad that the practice was discontinued during the hot summer months. For lunch, you could bring something and eat with the others in the break room, or you could go there while the cafeteria was still open.

In my free time I spent a lot of time at the beach. My favorite places in Marseille are Vallon des Auffres, Prado (very beautiful sunset and many different beaches), Maldormé and Plage Catalans is nice because it was only 15 minutes from my apartment. I spent a lot of time in the Calanques, especially in the Calanques of Cassis. And there, the Calanque Port Pin is my favorite place. Once you reach the beach, you hike and climb a bit on the right side and then you reach a rock where you can lie down. The calanques of the Côte Bleue are also very beautiful. There my favorite place in La Redonne is

Calanque des Anthénors in La Redonne
© Eveline Jagla

the port and the Calanque des Anthénors. To visit this place you can use the TER and with the Pass Côte Bleue you only pay 5 or 6 € and you can take the train all day. Many people also like Niolon, but I haven’t managed to go there yet, but I will on my next visit. Since I am very interested in sports, I tried climbing for the first time. I did it three times in the Calanques and I also bouldered in Arkose. It was so much fun and it is definitely a sport that I will continue to do in Germany. With Monde Vertical I discovered the Calanque of Sormiou and the one in Cap Canaille. The view of the different types of rocks and the sea was fantastic!

Since I was in a shared apartment, it was easier to make friends. But I also met some people through Bumble and the Erasmus Student Network (ESN). Unfortunately, the ESN didn’t offer any activities during the summer. But Marseille is so friendly and open that it’s easy to make friends even when walking around the city alone. I was also allowed to invite four different visitors so that we could explore the city together. I also had the opportunity to travel a bit. With a friend we went to Nice and Gordes du Verdon. Gordes du Verdon was fantastic and the Aqua rando where you float through the gorge was a lot of fun with an amazing view. Nice was a nice smaller town, but you could feel the different atmosphere. People were more well dressed and seemed more arrogant. We never had any really friendly service in the restaurants…. After our trip, we were very happy to return to Marseille. That’s what I love about Marseille. You can be who you want to be, and people don’t judge you. Some other tips in Marseille are: Bouillabaisse TURFU for a delicious

Calanque de Port Pin in Cassis
© Eveline Jagla

and small portion of bouillabaisse, Flashback at Vieux Port for a drink, co-working, lunch…, Green Meal for vegan and vegetarian food, Friche la Belle Mai as a nice event location, generally the metro card “la carte”, a visit to Cassis: a very cute little town, L’Art Haché: a hidden bar at La Pleine with jazz music (when we were there) and they only accept cash.

Feedback: Before I came to Marseille, I seemed very happy in Germany and didn’t want to leave. In the first weeks I could not imagine life in Marseille. Compared to Germany, it is very chaotic and disorganized, rules have less importance, and it is very dirty (the city has a big garbage problem…). But once I got used to the city and the lifestyle, I started to love it. I had a fresh start and could be who I wanted to be. I made some friends and the scenery with the Calanques is just amazing! I was very sad to leave Marseille and the lab, even though I didn’t quite like the topic in the internship. I gained a lot of valuable experience, and I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to be in Marseille and in the iSM2 lab! I am very sad to leave and if a new opportunity to come back to Marseille arises, I will be very happy.