A Note on International Research

There’s something about living—not going on vacation—but living abroad that changes a person. My summer in Germany has profoundly impacted my ability to understand others’ perspectives, adaptability when thrown in new environments, and likelihood to reach out to scientists in other countries. Though I view myself as a naturally open-minded person and enjoy befriending study-abroad students in school, being a minority in another country is a completely different, unique experience. The submersion helped me embrace learning the new culture: I sprinkled curry powder on my cafeteria food, I tried “Johannisbeeren”, and rode my bike everywhere (an uncommon habit in Wisconsin where I grew up). I learned that bagging groceries quickly can be challenging and that I should never throw away bottles because they are worth a “Pfand”. Currently taking an introductory German language class now that I’ve returned to the United States, I learned that it’s much easier to pick up the language when you learn through constant real-life applications. In addition, I learned that basic assumptions aren’t so basic when you’re a foreigner. Bathrooms and buses and bills at restaurants all suddenly were mysteries to unravel. Who knew you had to pay to use public toilets? Or that the waiter won’t bring the check until the patron specifically requested it? Figuring out how to navigate each city’s transportation system, communicate with strangers who speak a different language, and remain safe when traveling is a maturing and liberating process. Repeatedly throwing myself outside my traditional comfort zone has taught me how to think quickly on my feet. Finally, I discovered that the scientists in Germany are similar to scientists in the United States; they are good, hard-working people who are passionate about their research and whose intellectual input should be sought through collaboration.

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Selena Dickinson, Mona Oltmanns, Ilker Satilmis, Dimitrij Malcev