Who? Peter Seghers (23), MSc student of Plant Biotechnology
What? Internship at the Swedish agricultural university SLU
Where: Uppsala, Sweden
‘If I’m honest, I’m still not sure exactly what I learned from my internship. I was keen to do an internship abroad because I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to step out of my comfort zone. I also really wanted to do a lot of lab work, to learn a bit that way too. I did try out new techniques and ways of working. And I had to make new friends. Did I learn anything from that? We shall have to wait and see.
Before I started looking for internships I asked myself, “what do I want to get out of an internship?” I looked for a dot on the horizon, to make it easier to chart a route towards it. My dot on the horizon is going into research. So I opted for an internship at a university. The subject was great: I worked on phytopathology, which linked in well with my Master’s thesis.
Socks and sandals
Wageningen students who were already there had told me it was a small place, just like Wageningen, where the professors were down-to-earth and walked around casually dressed and wearing socks and sandals. Visiting another university helped me form my ideas. By seeing another way of doing things, I was more able to draw conclusions about what is nice and what works well. Which work approach, for instance. In the Swedish research group, the head of the lab was more the boss of the projects than I was used to in Wageningen. As soon as we got any results, we went straight to her to discuss them. I think it’s all a bit more casual in Wageningen
My sister went with me when I first moved there. When she went back and I stayed on alone, I thought, “So now I live in Sweden.” It was hard at times. I was homesick sometimes. For home, for the Netherlands, for being able to understand people on the street. When I felt like that, I usually went for a walk or a bike ride, out exploring, and then I got over it. I didn’t for one moment think, “I’m going to book a flight home.”
Dungeons and Dragons
Something that helped me, and that I would recommend to others, is to keep up your hobbies. If you play a sport, look for a chance to play it where you are. For me, it was games: I like board games and Dungeons and Dragons. I found some groups I could join through the internet. It was noticeable that not many Swedes joined in. They tend to keep to themselves and are not quick to seek contact. I had been warned about that, but I was still struck by how the stereotypes were confirmed.’