Saranya A interned at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and shares her endearing experience with us. Saranya is a Biotech student at RVCE Bangalore. Read on to discover more about her wonderful internship days.
An internship is defined as ‘a short work experience, over the summer where students learn’. This was my understanding when I applied to various research organisations both India and abroad for a research internship. What I didn’t anticipate was how much the term ‘learn’ encompassed.
I contacted professors from various universities from the month of April, in order to be a part of a research project at one of their labs. I was ecstatic when I got a confirmation from Dr. Rajesh Kumar, at the University of California, Los Angeles. He is a professor at the David Geffen School of Medicine and his work is in the use of various brain imaging techniques to study patients with sleep apnea and heart failure. My project however, was based on anorexia and the effects it had on the brain.
With all formalities done, I left on the 19th of June , 2014. I recollect the happiness and anxiety I felt as we landed at LAX. I was put up in an apartment with two other flat mates.
I stepped into the UCLA campus the next morning. Summer school had just begun and there were hundreds of students of different nationalities. I found myself feeling lost and quite alone. I found my way to the lab. There, I met Dr. Kumar, and my colleagues Jose, Santosh and Bumhee Park. I was shown around the lab, the hospital and the research facilities of the institute. Instantly, I felt a liking and a sense of inspiration to work in such an environment. I remember walking back to my apartment, eager to start work the next day.
On my way I found the Pauley pavilion. Standing tall and majestic on it was the mascot of UCLA, the Bruin Bear. Something about it gave me a sense of comfort and hope.
My core work started the next day, where I visited the Ronal Reagan medical center to start collecting data for my project. This meant reporting to the hospital at 6am. Everyday, there was a new patient, a new story and a new brain to analyse. After the data acquisition, I was to report at the lab to start working on it. This went on till 5pm. Most of the days however, we were back at the hospital by 8pm, to continue with the data collection. This went on till 10pm. I followed this routine for the rest of my stay. Jet lag and Homesickness would have to wait.
By around the first week of July, I was done with the data collection. Now, I had to learn the lab software and neuroanatomy to get to the next phase of my project. I spent the next 5 weeks, working extensively on the brain images. This had to be backed up with reading papers published on the subject. By third week, I began to take part in research studies based on memory, learning, and anxiety. Not only was I getting paid to do so, I was also given the opportunity to design a few experiments for the same. I got to interact with more doctors, patients and professors. This was to expand my perspective of the subject. My pedagogy phase was subconsciously being fuelled by deeper thoughts.
Somewhere along my visits to the hospital and the lab, I found myself understanding science and research in an anthropological sense. Mingling with people of different cultures, ideas, intellect and thought process made me reorient my understanding of the world and its ways. This increased my respect and fondness for the culture, traditions and values instilled in me.
The internship taught me a lot more than what I expected. Academic perspective was just one part of it. I had also learnt what it takes to be an Indian woman who can survive and compete on a global scale. Further, I was filled with a sense of gratitude, not just at the opportunity I had been given but the support and encouragement of my parents who made it happen.
My last week flew by much faster than I wanted it to. By the end, I had found substantial results of 101 patients, and read more journals and books than I targeted. It was the last day and I submitted my report and results. I was given a send off lunch by my colleagues and soon, it was time to go. As I walked home for the last time, I was emotional yet at peace. I looked back to the Pauley pavilion at the bruin bear. Maybe it was my imagination, but it seemed to be smiling at me. “Thank you,” I whispered.
If Saranya‘s experience motivates you, you can view the latest international internship.
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