November 18, 2016, by Joe Ward
Experimenting With My Future in an American Laboratory
By Jack Reynolds-Clarke, BSc Neuroscience
Are you interested in undertaking work experience in another country, but worried about the cost? The International Work Experience Grant can offer up to £1000 to support you.
Designed to enable students to undertake work experience opportunities that they might not otherwise be able to afford, the grant will support expenses such as accommodation, travel and visas, living costs and vaccinations.
In this blog, we meet Jack Reynolds-Clarke, a neuroscience undergraduate, who undertook an undergraduate laboratory assistant internship at the University of Minnesota, USA.
Can you give us some details of your placement?
I was an undergraduate lab assistant, and this involved receiving training and then carrying out experimental procedures that had already been planned. This started with optimisation experiments – experiments whose purpose is to find the optimum method for a procedure that the lab has never done before, so as to obtain the best results when carried out in order to collect real data.
After this I then helped one of the senior post-docs with a study on Parkinson’s Disease (PD). This involved me using confocal and epifluorescent microscopy to look at how cells behaved under certain conditions that mimic those found in PD.
What new skills did you learn?
The extensive training I received in order to be able to work in the lab and contribute to its research has given me a skill set that is far superior to my pre-placement attributes.
Also, spending six weeks away by myself has given me a lot of independence, and shows employers that I am prepared to relocate should the job require it. On top of this, the way in which I obtained my placement – by directly emailing the supervisor and asking for a work experience opportunity – shows employers that I have the initiative, motivation and determination to be a good and fruitful employee.
What would you say was your greatest achievement?
While on my placement, I was included as an author on an upcoming research paper on Parkinson’s Disease. I worked on this project for a senior post-doc in the lab, and data I produced will be used in the paper which will be published at the start of next year.
What would you say was the biggest challenge, and how did you overcome it?
Being alone in another country for six weeks – the fact that I worked lots of late hours contributed to this, but also meant that I could complete a huge amount of work.
However, I made friends at my laboratory and where I was staying whom I could socialise with at the weekend and in the evenings, as well as getting first-hand tours of the surrounding area. On top of this I found things to occupy my time when no one else was around, including sight-seeing, going to the cinema and enjoying America’s cheap outlet malls!
Can you give us three top tips to share with other students thinking of doing a placement abroad?
- Be prepared to be outgoing in order to make friends and connections where you are working and where you are living. This will mean that you don’t get lonely and can find out things about the local area that you might not be able to find online.
- Make sure you research the surrounding area that you are staying so that you can make the most of your trip and your time in the country.
- Be prepared to give up free time in the evening and sometimes on weekends. The more experience you get the better, and the more work you complete the more your employer will be impressed with you, and the better the reference they will write.
If you want to get more details on the International Work Experience Grant and could help you fund some work experience overseas, visit our webpage to find out what it can be used for and your eligibility. You can also complete an expression of interest for funding, which will be assessed by our team.
You should also read our information about internships abroad and the things you need to consider when applying for work experience in another country.
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