By Iulia Streanga
It all started with an email I read as the Wi-Fi signal was rapidly dissipating, in a car park, on a Friday night. The memory of me jumping around overflowing with excitement is still so vivid in my mind; I had just been announced that I was selected to take part in the Summer Student Fellowship programme at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, in the US. My project would involve using coral cores to look at specific chemical signatures, to infer past climate changes in ocean surface temperature and salinity. Now, back in Edinburgh after a summer that I started missing the moment it came to an end, I realised that taking part in this internship was the best thing that could have happened to me at the end of my 3rd year.
My first trip to the US started off as a challenging time. There was a five-hour time difference to adjust to, my introvert personality to deal with, another culture to get a grip of, and over thirty names to remember. There were topics I was not familiar with, slang I have not heard before, and the feeling that small friend groups were already forming by the time I arrived. Starting from scratch and building myself a home for ten weeks out of a completely unknown environment was not easy for me, and it reminded me of my first semester away from home in Edinburgh. But every challenging context I find myself in proves itself a chance for incredible personal growth and a journey to self-discovery.
I became part of an extremely dynamic student community whose passions I share and took immense satisfaction in discussing earth sciences with engaged and ambitious students. I was introduced to a scientific community which made me feel welcome from the very beginning and integrated me into their vibrant institution. I attended inspiring lectures, I got to work with a wonderful mentor, I was given the chance to prepare for a future research career by doing laboratory work and presenting a poster. I was encouraged to set my standards high and think of publishing a paper and taking my poster to an international conference.
I got to travel to New York, Boston and all along Cape Cod, I spent long days at the beach and my first 4th July in the States, I had long conversations with the other fellows while lying on our backs in the sand and staring at the red moon or the galaxy. My summer in the US was a colorful mix of science, poetry, trips, friendship, inspiring conversations and big dreams. I am grateful for having had the chance to spread all these paints on the canvas of my university years.