The past three months have been a blur. It doesn’t seem like that long ago that I got an email with an offer for a summer internship in Heidelberg, Germany!
At the time, I was in a bit of a slump and dragging my feet through my third year of university. I felt like I was in a weird mixture of shock and denial for a solid few weeks as I tried to figure out everything that I needed to do to prepare. I had to try to get a visa, find a place to live, book flights and try to learn some German (all I really learned was ‘guten Tag’ and ‘prost’ – good day and cheers). I spent a lot of time trying and failing to figure things out before leaving, and then giving up, saying I tried, and hoping that everything would work out once I got here.
I’m kind of glad, because turns out, there was no way I could have really been prepared to leave. Between issues with getting a visa, canceled flights, a massive language barrier, and learning to navigate a new country, the past couple weeks since I arrived in Germany have been a bit of a whirlwind.
Anyways, I’m here, I’m settling in, and I’m even learning some German. The next few blog posts will be for catching up on a crazy crazy couple weeks in Berlin and Prague, and my first week living in Heidelberg, my home for the summer.
But first, a little about me: I grew up near Vancouver, and I’ve lived in Montreal for three years now. I go to McGill University, majoring in interdepartmental honours immunology (IHI for short). I began in the Microbiology & Immunology (MIMM) major, then applied to the IHI program after my second year. The program combines MIMM, physiology and biochemistry, although I still consider myself a MIMMer at heart!
My internship is in the Department of Molecular Virology at the University of Heidelberg, working with a PhD student who is studying the Hepatitis B X protein (HBx), a protein that contributes to the replication cycle of hepatitis B virus by (we think) allowing transcription of the viral genome when it’s maintained as extrachromosomal DNA (i.e. DNA not part of the human genome). I’ll be specifically investigating the role of heterogeneous nuclear ribonucleoprotein K, or hnRNPK (say that five times fast!) in HBV replication. The internship is through the DAAD RISE program, a German program that pairs undergraduates from Canada, the US and the UK with German PhD students, and vice versa.
If you haven’t figured this out, I’m kind of a huge science nerd, but I do other things do I promise. I also love dancing classical and contemporary ballet, vegan cooking, sewing, knitting, and fermenting anything I possibly can (just ask my roommate). And this summer, I’m trying to explore as much of Europe as I can while I’m here!