My project focused on determining the differences in cell structure and glucose transport of insulin resistant and insulin sensitive zebrafish embryo models. My previous research projects were more focused on ecology and oceanography, but I wanted the experience of working in cell biology to learn about new techniques such as different microscopy procedures.
In the lab
I wouldn’t necessarily say there was a typical day in the lab. Some days involved me preparing my samples for experiments either later in the day or for the next day while other days were merely me conducting literature reviews. The times where I was in the lab involved a lot of concentration with using new techniques for preparing our samples as well as working with new instrumentation. I found the whole experience so valuable and really felt more like a fellow scientist and colleague than an undergraduate researcher. The trust and respect that all of my colleagues and mentors showed me was so uplifting and it made me realize how I want to be perceived and treated as a scientist.
A new lifestyle
Before coming to the Netherlands, all of my semesters had always been focused on balancing classes, research, and my social life. When I came to Leiden University as an international student, not only did I have to dive into this new subject material for the research project and conduct my own experiments but I also had to adjust to this new lifestyle that I wasn’t used to in the United States. Having to ride a bike pretty much everywhere and becoming acclimated to reading signs and labels in the grocery stores that were in Dutch was all quite foreign to me. This transition was pretty hard at first; however, with the help of the amazing friends that I had met during OWL week (Leiden University’s orientation week) and my supportive colleagues in the lab, Leiden soon began to feel like home. I even picked up new hobbies such as going to the gym and becoming a traveler! I managed to visit seven different countries during my time in Europe!
Overall, I never could have imagined how much I would grow as both an individual and as a scientist. Especially in this day in age of the coronavirus pandemic, my time abroad with the EuroScholars program has given me the resilience to endure even the toughest situations and has given me a leg up in the job searching process. Every employer that I have interviewed with has asked about my time in the Netherlands and I am beyond grateful to have the chance to talk about this experience. Things weren’t always easy living in Leiden, but I am so happy I took that leap of faith to study abroad. The memories I made and the experiences I went through are one-hundred percent irreplaceable! Thank you to the Spaink Lab, Gerda Lamers, and the EuroScholars Program for an unforgettable four months!