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Kürşat Birgin traveled to Barcelona for an internship.

For one year, he conducted research at the Biomedical Research Park of the Universitat Pompeu Fabra.

Interview with Kürşat Birgin

Field of study: BSc Bioanalytics and Cell Biology
Stay abroad: Internship
Host institution: Universitat Pompeu Fabra (UPF)
Semester: April 2022 to March 2023

What motivated you to go abroad for an internship?
I wanted to take the opportunity to learn about a new culture and live in a foreign environment. I also wanted to improve my language skills. English was spoken in the lab, and I was able to use Spanish in everyday life. A stay abroad broadens both your professional and personal horizons and you can gain valuable experience. In addition, you expand your network and develop personally.

The original plan was to do a semester abroad followed by a bachelor's thesis, but COVID threw a spanner in the works. In the end, I scrapped the plans. I stayed in Switzerland for my bachelor's thesis and for the experience abroad I added a voluntary one-year internship after graduation.

What was your everyday life like?
Since I didn't study at a university, but worked at the university's biomedical research park, I didn't have a typical student's everyday life. It was much more like a normal working day, with the difference that the clocks tick a bit differently in Spain than in Switzerland. The day usually starts later (9-10am), but also lasts longer.

Tell us about your research and your research results.
For my project, I collaborated with several hospitals conducting a clinical trial with patients (disease: small cell lung cancer) testing a new therapy (vaccination with dendritic cells). At various times during the study, I was sent samples (peripheral blood mononuclear cells), which I then analyzed for specific immune cells using flow cytometry. In doing so, I examined the correlation of changes in subsets of circulating blood lymphocytes and dendritic cells with clinical development.

What surprised you most about your time abroad?
I was surprised by how difficult it was to meet local students and build friendships, even though I lived in two different student residences during my time. Catalans are rather reserved and like to keep to themselves.

But don't worry, there are other options. Barcelona is teeming with international students from all over the world!

Do you have any advice for future exchange students?
My tip: Dare to get out of your comfort zone! You have nothing to lose! You will work enough later on. A stay abroad will open more doors for you in the future and help you stand out from other students.

Were there any other special experiences?
Every year in September, Barcelona hosts the "La Mercè" festival. It was one of the highlights of my stay and lasted several days. The city organized - apart from the fireworks shows in the evening - a different show for every hour, e.g. traditional or modern dance or music performances. A good opportunity to meet new people!


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FHNW School of Life Sciences

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