Thinking of undertaking an internship in the EU this summer? Perhaps you’re looking for an opportunity or you’ve already secured one. Either way, you may be eligible to receive the Erasmus+ Traineeship Grant  to help you with the costs associated with interning outside of the UK.
Last year Tanja Hann returned home to Germany to undertake an internship in a research institute. She told us more about the experience…
“The Erasmus+ Traineeship Grant allowed me to undertake an internship where I found out what real work in a research laboratory looks like. I have always wanted to become a research scientist, but never really had any actual experience with this. Of course, I also had occasional doubts – what if the job is not right for me? What if it is totally different from what I imagined? The internship definitely helped me to get a better impression of what type of career I want to pursue and erased any doubts I had about whether this path would be right for me.”
How did you find your internship?
The internship was not compulsory to my degree programme – it was fully up to me to decide where to apply. Sourcing the internship was more straightforward than I initially expected. I knew roughly what I wanted to do and what expectations I had and so I just started searching online. I quickly found a couple of research institutes that raised my interest and then proceeded to search for individual research groups. When I found the website of the laboratory I eventually worked with, I knew their work would be right for me – so I just contacted them and was lucky enough to receive a positive reply!
What did you do during your internship?
My internship took place in a research laboratory which is focussed on gene therapy. I was able to get involved in several ongoing projects, which was a really valuable aspect of my experience. One of the projects hadn’t yet reached the experimental stage and I was able to contribute to planning it from the very beginning. This involved reading many research papers on the topic and coming up with an overall project objective. This experience not only taught me how to be a scientist “behind the scenes”, but also gave me the opportunity to learn experimental procedures within another, larger project. The tasks I completed were typical for a cell and molecular genetics laboratory and involved cloning, Western analysis, qPCR, transfection of mammalian cells and even iPSC development.
Why did you choose to undertake an international internship?
The country in which my internship took place was not new to me – however, given the international background of the research institute I worked with, I came into contact with many different cultures at once. My co-workers and I often found ourselves discussing differences between languages, cuisines and even day-to-day habits. This not only taught me to look at things from a different perspective but was also a lot of fun!
What skills did you develop during the internship?
Naturally, working in a research laboratory for two months taught me a lot of experimental techniques relevant to my field of study, as well as the process of planning an advanced research project. However, I learnt so much more than that. During the internship, I wrote a scientific report on all of my accomplishments during the time – this was a really valuable experience and improved my scientific writing skills. On top of that, I believe that working with a variety of people in the laboratory really boosted my communication and teamwork skills, as well as critical thinking and problem-solving skills.
Has the experience influenced your plans for the future?
The whole internship experience strengthened my desire to pursue a career path in this industry by giving me a much better impression on what this type of work actually involves. I feel like I am more prepared for life after university now and it all seems much less scary!
What tips do you have for other students thinking of doing an internship overseas?
My main tip for students considering going overseas would be: be open to everything. Your experience will (most) likely not be precisely what you imagined and it would be pretty boring if it were, right? You will learn so many things and gather valuable experience – for your studies, your career and your personal development. Another tip I would give to virtually anyone with high career aspirations is: do not be afraid to dream big! You will only have a chance to succeed if you are unafraid to try so do not let anyone, including yourself, tells you what you cannot do!
You don’t need to be doing an internship in a research institute to receive the Erasmus+ Traineeship Grant – all sectors are eligible! If you’d like to apply for the grant, have a look at the EU Funding page , or contact your own academic institution for details.
Photo from Tanja Hann
The Erasmus + Programme has a number of oppertunities for students – the film below shares details on their intern programme – for more information visit https://ec.europa.eu/programmes/erasmus-plus/node_en