Michelle Au, a health sciences student and researcher, took the advice of a friend at the University of Calgary when she applied for a scholarship to work as a researcher in Germany for the summer. “It’s a good opportunity,” her friend offered, urging Au to apply for the funding he won to work in Berlin’s biological sciences field two years earlier.
Fast forward to today and Au, now a fourth-year biomedical science major, applied and was accepted to work in Berlin. Today she’s eager to share her scientific and cultural experience to entice other University of Calgary students to apply for the internships by Jan. 15, 2016.
How the science and engineering internships work
Au interned in a research lab at Humboldt University of Berlin. “It was beautiful,” she says of the quaint campus, founded in 1810 and famed for its prestigious position among the top 50 universities worldwide.
Her research in HU’s Department of Cognitive Psychology was on information processing in musicians, and it piggybacked on her studies at the University of Calgary on music and autism.
“I have a minor in piano and when I saw the position in Berlin I thought it was a perfect fit,” recalls Au. “But I also applied to work at two other research labs, one in Munich and one in Potsdam, since they offered biomedical work, too, and there was no guarantee I’d land the position I wanted when I applied for the scholarship.”
Now is the time to submit applications for the 2016 RISE Germany scholarships. “I highly recommend that students browse through the summer positions and register online before filling out the application,” observes the award-winner.
International exposure an eye-opener
Au gained a profound appreciation for research in other countries when she interned. RISE stands for research internships in science and engineering, and it's one of many programs offered by the German Academic Exchange Service, also known as DAAD.
Even though Au knew she was qualified for the summer position she wanted, luck was on her side when she actually landed the scholarship to fund her internship.
RISE internships are geared to English speaking bachelor-degree students with high grade-point averages. Roughly 50 to 60 are culled from across Canada in biology, chemistry, physics, earth sciences and engineering. The scholarship winners work for doctoral students in universities and research institutes.
An estimated 600 summer positions are offered to foreign students travelling to Germany, but only 300 of them are funded. The funded students receive a stipend for meals and accommodations for eight-, nine- or 10-week stays.
“This year all the North American students were fortunate enough to receive 800 euros for airfare,” notes Au. “And this was very generous of the German Academic Exchange Service.”
Chance to see beautiful sites
Although the cost of airfare is not part of the usual scholarship package, a trip to a student conference in a German town or city is typical. For Au, the conference was an opportunity to rub shirt sleeves with scholarship holders from the United States and United Kingdom.
During the conference, Au heard RISE Germany students and alumni present their research findings and she spent time strolling along the Gothic streets of Baden-Württemberg, a German state. Heidelberg University, built in 1386, hosted the event.
Although beautiful sites await students who earn RISE Germany scholarships, it’s both luck and effort that allows them to win.
Au says the effort involves maintaining a competitive GPA and polishing a cover letter and an online application. Research experience is a must, and research supervisors or professors should sign the student's reference letters.
“I’d never travelled to Europe before,” explains Au. “The fact that I was able to work in Berlin was really special. I made friends with everyone in the lab and I have a standing offer of employment if I ever want to return.”
More opportunities for student exchanges
The University of Calgary’s growing relationships with partnering universities across Germany results in student exchanges in Berlin, Freiberg, Ulm, Aachen, Bamberg, Oldenburg, Hamburg and Stuttgart. Students accepted by RISE Germany also work in other cities and towns.
Upper-year students in the Schulich School of Engineering often apply for a semester or a year-long exchange at the University of Stuttgart. There, they enrol in a four-year master’s program in the Faculty of Civil and Environmental Engineering.
The year 2015 marks a successful time for the internationalization of the University of Calgary. “The university’s goal to become a global intellectual hub is anchored in our Eyes High strategy and is a steadfast priority for University of Calgary International,” notes Janaka Ruwanpura, vice-provost (international). “Eventually our goal is to see 50 per cent of our students enjoying an international opportunity before they graduate.”
Rise Germany will accept applications until Jan. 15, 2016. To apply visit daad.de/rise/en/. Visit the Study Abroad Office in MacEwan Student's Centre to learn about other work and study abroad opportunities.