Student - November 27, 2014

'It felt as if we’d ended up in an American road movie'

Who:Max van Hooren
What: MSc internship on a new method of testing CRISPR
Where: Stanford Biochemistry department, USA

‘Actually, I always wanted to do an internship in the US. Just because I am interested in the American culture. I was surprised how difficult it was to get a place there. It was only after pursuing all avenues that I found a position in the new lab at Stanford University, thanks to its contacts with Wageningen.

It is interesting to see the differences between the universities of Wageningen and Stanford. In Wageningen there are strict protocols for guaranteeing safety and care in the lab, for instance. So I was surprised to find that in Stanford, which is a reputed university after all, the workbench with the chemicals is right by your desk. You rode on your office chair from one place to the other. That would be unthinkable in the Netherlands.

As a European, there is no real culture shock in the United States. You know what you can expect. But the lie of the land there still made an impression on me. In contrast to the Netherlands, America has space. So land is cheap and most houses are single-storey. The distances between places are big too, with the car culture to go with that. I didn’t have a car myself, unfortunately. That was a pity, because it pretty much kept me confined to the place where I was staying. So I was happy when there was a chance to go camping with two friends. They were smoking dope heavily throughout the trip and were utterly amazed that a Dutchman didn’t even smoke cigarettes, let alone dope. But we still had a lot of fun, the three of us. I saw the enormous sequoia trees and camped out in the wild. On the advice of my travel companions we also visited a local marijuana centre. It felt just as if we’d ended up in a real American road movie.'