I think it’s common knowledge that “Auf Wiedersehen” is one way to say good bye in German, but the literal translation of it is “until we see again,” which is truly how I feel about Germany, the folks in Gießen, and the whole experience of working there.
I think the greatest impact of this internship for me was, as aforementioned, leading me closer to a long-term path of research and academia. Taking classes and learning about chemical theories and ideas is definitely interesting to me (or else I wouldn’t be majoring in it!) but there’s so much more to doing research than just applying theories and testing out new ones. It’s a whole new process and foreign way of thinking, of constant reassessing and redeveloping ideas until you find something that seems to make sense and fits. There is almost no right or wrong, which seems counterintuitive to the way most people think about math and science. There is only trying and retrying until you find success.
Moreover, there are so many everyday tasks performed in the lab that a theoretical background just can’t prepare you for. How to properly mortar a product (everyone has their own secret), how to prepare a cell, how long to press a cell, how to set up various instruments, and most importantly how to get all your work done every day and manage your time well. It was so much harder to do all these seemingly simple tasks when I had to consider whether there was time in the calendar to make a measurement, how many lab spots were open in the glovebox, whether or not I had all my pieces dried and ready to go for the next task.
Most importantly of all, this internship gave me confidence. As a woman who aspires to work in a STEM field, I’ve often felt out of place. I never really considered myself a “science person” or someone who always loved math and numbers and theories and Truth. I didn’t think that, even though I had taken all the same classes as my peers and excelled, I was qualified for a position in a lab setting especially in a university abroad. But I did it! I applied and I was selected and I was treated with respect and taken seriously by all my lab mates and colleagues. And that was truly the most rewarding aspect for me–to realize that I am capable of so much more than I thought I was.
So here’s to an extremely successful and amazing summer of science, and all the labs I hope to join in the future. Auf Wiedersehen, Deutschland–I can’t wait to come back.