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Johnna Hartenstine - Aachen, Germany

During the summer of 2014, I was granted the incredible opportunity to not only study nuclear medicine but also learn the German language and explore European countries through the UROP (undergrad research opportunities program) at RWTH Aachen, German. I have always wanted to study abroad and continue my studies in a foreign country but, as a chemistry major, I found it difficult to take time off of my heavy course load. Thankfully, I researched for summer programs abroad and was privileged to gain my first research experience in Germany. Not only did I broaden my experience in the research lab, but I also gained the knowledge of a new foreign language as well as having an adventure filled summer.

I spent two and a half months in Germany with students in areas of study such as mechanical engineering, world economics, polymer science, and most important chemistry. I researched in Dr. Vogg and Dr. Bauwen’s labs labeling a potential molecular tracer with a radioactive nuclide and its ability to be imagined in vivo on Swiss mice induced with hind limb ischemia. Since this was my first research position I was naturally nervous to began but excited to learn more about my field.

typical week consisted of the following: German class Monday and Wednesday mornings until noon and then research in the lab until 5 or 6. On all other days, the entire day was dedicated to research in the lab with time in the evening to unwind with friends. On the weekends, we could travel to surrounding countries such as the Netherlands, France, and Belgium.

The summer taught me how to adapt to my surroundings, how to start initiative and set goals, and how to be open to new ideas and people. When I arrived in Germany, I knew no German and immediately felt out of place but quickly picked up the language. I also had the unique opportunity to conduct research not only in Germany but also in the nuclear medicine department at the Maastricht Hospital in the Netherlands. By gaining experience in two labs, I learned how to adapt to unique polices and cleanliness in both labs. I also learned that if I want to be successful in the field of medicine, I have to be innovative and precise in order to think around an issue. Finally, my time in Germany was a rewarding educational experience but the incredible other students studying with me and my new local friends helped me to feel at home during world cup celebrations or weekend trips to the farmers market in Liege or even a small barbeque in the park.

I concluded my summer with a poster and oral presentation, along with paper, that summarized my work and taught me how to present my findings in a professional manner. Spending my summer in school was more enjoyable than I could ever imagine due to the degree I have grown as a chemistry student, grasping an entirely new language and feeling comfortable speaking it in public, along with the unforgettable memories from my new friends.