Today’s blog post was written by Alex Hounshell, one of our regular bloggers. Since Alex is abroad with limited internet access, her post is being published by our general UNdertheC account.
Last blog post I wrote about the logistics (and my reservations) about conducting scientific research abroad. Today, I write from abroad. From Taihu, China (‘hu’ means ‘Lake’) to be specific and as I predicted, all my expectations about doing research in a foreign country have been shattered. Here are just a few highlights:
- It’s awesome. If you ever get a chance to do research in a foreign country, do it. The logistics will work out (scientists are resourceful) and the benefits of collaborating with other scientists, expanding your horizons, and discovering new cultures is 100% worth it. I’ve eaten countless unidentified (but delicious) dishes and am a huge fan of the communal approach to dinners (everybody shares everything).
- Science is universal. Seriously. If you limit yourself to collaborating with scientists only in the US, then you’re missing out on interacting with a huge percentage of brilliant, motivated, and hardworking folks from around the world. I don’t think I could stress this point enough. My research has already grown in leaps and bounds thanks to the help and guidance of our collaborators.
- The language barrier is tough. It’s hard to communicate when you don’t know the language (my fault) especially when the language is so drastically different from English. Thankfully, in China, students learn English at a young age and so most people (especially the younger generation) know some English. And you do pick things up quickly – I can now count to 29 in Chinese.
- 14 hours is a long time on a plane. Though not too long. Don’t let it stop you, just take a lot of books and music. Plus you meet some really awesome people on planes who teach you that ‘Bei’ means north and ‘jing’ means capital, and therefore ‘Beijing’ means the north capital (Nanjing is the south capital). Also not to eat raw vegetables.
I don’t want to bore you with all the revelations I’ve had about working (and traveling) as a scientist-in-training. Believe me, there are a lot. The take home: I love my job and collaborations in science are key.