Who? Laura Schijven
What? Internship with the Nanomaterials group at Verona University
Where? Verona, Italy
‘I wanted to do my internship in Italy. I’d often been there on holiday but now I really wanted to immerse myself in the culture and see what Italian science is like. I got the opportunity to go to Verona University through the BioNanoTechnology chair group, where I did my thesis.
I worked on a method for producing particles in a microwave. Not your ordinary everyday microwave but a professional one in which you can set various parameters. I used it to make powders that can light up red and green. I then used lasers to test when they gave off light and how much. The main significance of my work was in how the particles were made. It would have taken three days at least with the usual synthesis, but now it only took 15 minutes thanks to the microwave. The Nanomaterials group didn’t have any experience with this and so I was allowed to try it out.
There’s always tomorrow
The biggest cultural difference that I found with Wageningen was that there was even less of a divide between students and professors than here. For example, I shared an office with the professor and I could always ask any questions directly. They were much more approachable. The pace of work was also very different. The mindset there was that you can always do something tomorrow rather than today. Or as the Italians put it: lentamente per favore. It took ages before the chemicals I needed had been ordered, for example, and I only found out what equipment was available after I’d been there two months. On the other hand, I was given the freedom to work on a project that was new for the department. A really cool opportunity. Eventually, I was the only person in the department who knew how to make particles in the microwave.
I had the money to visit a few Italian cities thanks to the Erasmus scholarship and some savings. I needed that money too because sandwiches and drinks are definitely more expensive in the cities than here. Except for the coffee. You rarely pay more than one euro for your coffee in Italy. In the end, I mainly did a lot of things with people from the group. People in Italy are very open-hearted and they are always up for doing something. A barbecue at someone’s house, parties or exploring a city. I do miss that open-hearted nature. I’ll definitely go back to look the people up who I met there. They have become true friends.’