YEAR THREE: FERNWEH
(german): longing for far-off places
Junior year was bookended by travel: I went to Germany and the Czech Republic the summer before, and Germany, Denmark, and the Netherlands the summer after. Junior year itself was stressful - physics and the biochemistry series were my life, but other than that, I felt fairly stable and groovy.
Academic: Talking to Myself
Winter quarter is widely known as the hardest quarter. The Seattle rain is relentless and everything just seems dreary. This was especially true the winter quarter of my junior year. I was taking Biochem 441, the hardest of the series, and wasn't doing as well as I normally did in science classes. I distinctly remember, sitting on my bed, listening to "Age of Consent" by New Order instead of studying for a midterm. I didn't like my professors at all and the material was outrageously in-depth and difficult.
The bright note of this quarter was the Honors class I took, "Pilgrimages and Idle Travels" with Frances McCue. This was mainly a creative writing course - we read some books, too, but mainly wrote our own travel stories and mini-memoirs. I had never taken an English class that allowed us to write creatively before, and I absolutely loved the experience. Being able to read my peers work, as well, was rewarding, and we all had a somewhat intimate knowledge of one another by the time the quarter was over.
For our midterm paper, we were prompted to take a "fictional character" on a tour of our hometown. At first, I thought this meant a fictional character already in existence, like from a book or TV show, but then I realized we just had to imagine someone with us who didn't really exist. I have very mixed feelings about my suburban hometown, so this prompt was so fun for me to write about. My "fictional character" was actually me from high school, and I drove around with her as the dialogue revealed our conflicting perspectives on Rosemount, Minnesota. I am very proud of this somewhat sneaky move I made, and most of my classmates thought I was speaking to a younger sister. Some people got it though, so I'm glad my constant revision and use of subtle details was marginally successful. Though the secret has been revealed, here's an excerpt from my paper:
She sighs and whispers, “I can’t wait to get out of here. These streetlights line the road like a runway, guiding my ascent. I look back and I feel like I can take off and finally escape this place.”
Personal: The Best Summer Ever!
After I fell in love with Berlin on my study abroad in summer 2015, I knew I needed to go back. One of my coworkers in my research lab suggested the DAAD RISE program, which offers research internships in science and engineering in Germany. This sounded perfect, so I applied to a few labs and learned I had received an internship for summer 2016 in Mainz, Germany. Mainz is a small town outside of Frankfurt, and I expected to be alone for the whole summer. I was really nervous - especially with the added pressure of doing research in another country. What if I wasn't good at it? What if I spent most of my nights alone because I didn't integrate well with my coworkers? How was I supposed to cook for myself in another country, when I could barely cook more than two meals in the States?
As it turns out, I was only one of eight English-speaking interns in Mainz. Ashley, David, Eric, Amanda, Theo, Lucy, and Charlie made my summer great - if not the best summer I've ever experienced. We went on weekend trips to Cologne, Berlin, and, because we were on a train to Munich when the shootings happened, we stayed with one of Ashley's friends in the small town of Böblingen. We drank a lot of beer and wine, and ate a lot of schnitzel at our favorite Eisgrub Bräu. We had a lot of fun together, and still message each other every once in awhile to catch up.
As for the research, I very much liked learning about electrochemistry and using all the fancy equipment my lab had. Germany funds their science programs extremely well, so I was amazed at all the work I could get done in a morning that would have taken me several days in the States. My PhD student mentor, Sebastian, as well as the rest of the Waldvogel group, were very welcoming and fun to talk to. I look forward to one day going back to Mainz, seeing them all again, and once more wandering around the town that I called home for three months.
The German pop songs that were popular during that summer also bring back vivid memories of the nights spent along the river banks, drinking wine, and enjoying the company of new friends. Listen here.
Other highlights this year were:
- completing the grueling biochemistry series
- starting organometallic catalysis research in the Goldberg group
- learning my brother not only proposed to his girlfriend, but was also going to be a dad!
- and with that, LEARNING I WILL BE AN AUNT!!!
- finding a pre-medical community through Phi Delta Epsilon
- moving into a lovely basement with friends and taking long walks around our neighborhood
- getting involved as a geography researcher with Team Demo Hugo