“What should I do with my summer?” is something that you ask when you have a Summer open. Thanks to a confusion co-op rotation schedule, I was asking myself this question with regard to Summer 2016.
I knew I wanted to try working in a new field of research for a semester, and I recalled all of the research abroad programs the Study Abroad Office talked about in seminar. I started looking into them in more detail, and I realized 3 things:
You can apply for the $4,000 SSOE Summer Internship for Pitt-affiliated abroad research programs, and they LOVE applicants who work abroad
There were tons of opportunities in the field of research I wanted to jump into with a program in Singapore* called SERIUS
This was probably the last chance I’d have to research abroad. Yikes.
So, with the cushion of #1, the excitement of #2, and the realization of #3, I applied for an electrical engineering research position through the SERIUS program and was lucky enough to receive it. I, and I think everyone else in my year who did this program, also received the aforementioned $4,000 funding, which covered round-trip plane tickets (~$800) and housing (~$1000) with the remaining to go towards food and travel.
The result? Arguably the best 8 weeks of my life, for a myriad of reasons that I could go on about for hours, but concisely, it was:
Academically Stimulating – I worked a pretty typical 40hr/week in the lab at the Singapore Institute for Neurotechnology (SINAPSE) and it was incredible. I was introduced to the world of neural engineering, which now is what I wish to pursue my graduate education researching, and my personal project was both challenging and interesting. This research experience has also served me very well in my applications for graduate programs!
Culturally Eye-Opening – I had never visited Asia before, so living in Singapore was an incredible cultural experience for me, from customs, to food, to history and politics, etc. – and English is the primary language, so that helped! It was a beautiful and mind-opening experience that has helped shape my view of the world today.
Loads of Fun – There were ~40 students from 5 universities in the US involved in the program, and I’m happy to say that I still keep in contact with a fair amount of them. While we worked during the day, many of us spent the nights exploring the city and the weekends traveling to the nearby countries together**. It was absolutely unforgettable.
I am certainly not alone in these experiences – almost everyone who I have talked about from various Summer research abroad programs have had a similarly positive experience.
If you’re not sure about what to do with your summer, consider that you can get funded to research across the globe for 8-weeks. And what could beat that?
* Singapore is an island city-state in South-East Asia at the southern tip of Malaysia. It’s one of the largest ports in the world and is pretty much a city of the future.
** Me and one of my friends in the program, Jake, traveled to cities in Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Hong Kong, and The Philippines (in layovers).