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Stephanie Medrano

Stephanie took the opportunity to do a double degree in Prague and spent one additional semester at the University of Chemistry and Technology

Interview with Stephanie Medrano

Field of study: MSc in Life Sciences, specialisation Pharmatechnology
Stay abroad: Double Degree
Host institution: University of Chemistry and Technology
Semester: Autumn 2023

What made you decide, what motivated you to go abroad?
As I contemplated my future after completing my Bachelor's degree, I stumbled over the offered possibility to do a double degree by going to another university in another country while completing my Master’s degree. The chance to study in a new environment and learn from esteemed professors while being exposed to different perspectives and cultures was a dream come true. Furthermore, I sought to keep all avenues open for my educational journey, including facilitating a smoother pathway towards earning a Ph.D. in pharmaceuticals when the time comes.

Why did you choose your host institution/country?
Prague is a well known city for their cultural background, as well as their lively student life. With numerous universities situated in the city center and its immediate surroundings, it offers ample opportunities to interact with people and students from diverse backgrounds. This aspect greatly influenced my decision to study in the country. When selecting my host institution, I was particularly swayed by conversations with exchange students from the University of Chemistry and Technology (UCT), who were studying at Fachhochschule Nordwestschweiz Muttenz. Their enthusiastic accounts of their experiences in Prague played a significant role in my decision-making process. Moreover, I was eager to personally explore Prague's well-celebrated reputation for excellent beer.

What is your everyday life like?
Each day brought its own unique rhythm, largely dictated by my schedule and class timetable. With a mix of classes and laboratory work, my typical day unfolded as follows: After a good night rest, I woke up around 7am to be in the lab at 8am, where I would spend the entire day until it was time to attend lectures. During lunch breaks, I often met up with my roommate and other friends from the Erasmus community for lunch dates. Following my classes, I embarked on city explorations, seeking out new coffee shops where I could indulge in caffeine-fueled study sessions. Evenings were either spent bonding with my roommates from Switzerland and Germany over shared meals or venturing out with friends to discover Prague's vibrant nightlife scene and sample beers from various breweries.

Tell us about your research findings during your residency.
Upon arrival in Prague, I was presented with a choice between two captivating laboratory projects to engage in. Both projects held immense appeal, and I harbored a strong desire to contribute to both. Ultimately, I opted to devote my efforts to the project that promised opportunities for expanding my knowledge in Pharmatechnology and enhancing my skill set.

A significant aspect of this project involved investigating the dissolution behavior of a BSC class II active pharmaceutical ingredient (API). Given the notorious difficulty of BSC class II APIs in aqueous solubility, devising effective methods was imperative. This entailed the development of robust dissolution and HPLC methodologies.
The primary objective of the project was to ascertain the dissolution characteristics of the BSC class II API in both powder and granulated forms. Granules were fabricated through dry granulation, employing two different pressures during the production process. Furthermore, we evaluated three distinct size categories of granules and conducted various studies using the USP Apparatus 4 for dissolution testing, subsequently comparing the results.
In conclusion, the applied pressure during dry granulation significantly influenced the dissolution rate of the BSC class II compound. Higher pressure resulted in a slower dissolution rate. Additionally, comparisons among different size classes within pressure groups indicated that larger particles exhibited a slower dissolution rate compared to smaller granules.

What surprised you the most about your stay abroad?
Building a network of friends and acquaintances turned out to be quite easy, despite not residing in the student dormitory. Thanks to the proactive efforts of ESN organizers in arranging regular activities for students to connect, integrating into a large social circle was relatively straightforward. Since most lectures at UCT were conducted in Czech, the majority of my classes were attended only by international students, which somewhat limited interactions with native students. However, participating in a lab project provided opportunities to engage with some of them.
I was also taken aback by how swiftly time passed. It felt as though months slipped by in the blink of an eye, leaving me surprised each time. With a constant stream of activities, whether it be meeting up with friends or making new acquaintances, time seemed to accelerate, catching me off guard when exam periods approached, which indicated the end of my stay abroad.

What tips would you give to future exchange students?
Following my experience abroad, I offer the following advice to interested students considering the Double Degree program:

  • Talk with former students regarding their experiences in your desired city.
  • Don’t be afraid to accept and ask for help from your home and host institution.
  • Have the courage to take actively part at the offered activities.
  • Inform yourself carefully about subjects before selecting them. Some might sound interesting, yet can be quite challenging.
  • Research the city, arrive earlier to explore it without hurry.
  • Take some days off to actually relax.

Above all, my most important advice is: Plan your stay carefully. Time passes swiftly, and it’s easy to lose sight of the purpose behind your journey.

Is there anything else you would like to share?
One of the fantastic aspects of Prague is the convenience of traveling to other cities and countries, whether by car, bus, or train. While some trips are officially organized by ESN groups, by being part of a larger community, arranging such excursions independently is quite easy.
Within our community, we organized visits to Vienna (Austria), Krakow (Poland), Budapest (Hungary), and enjoyed a week of skiing in Pec Pod Sněžkou (Czech Republic). These journeys unfolded as unforgettable adventures, now cherished as core memories that I am grateful to have experienced.

Ab ins Ausland?

Unsere Studierenden profitieren von der internationalen Vernetzung der Hochschule für Life Sciences. Ein Auslandsaufenthalt bei unseren Partnerschulen ist bei Bachelor- wie auch Master-Studierenden sehr begehrt. Nicht nur, um den persönlichen Horizont zu erweitern, sondern auch, um neue soziale und kulturelle Kompetenzen zu erwerben.

Im Rahmen unseres Masterprogramms können ausgewählte Studierende durch ein zusätzliches Semester an einer unserer Partnerschulen, zwei Diplome erhalten. Das Double-Degree Programm ist besonders attraktiv für Masterstudierende, die anschliessend eine Promotion anstreben. Weitere Details zum Double-Degree-Programm finden Sie im hier.

Hochschule für Life Sciences FHNW

Fachhochschule Nordwestschweiz FHNW Hochschule für Life Sciences Hofackerstrasse 30 4132 Muttenz
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