This summer’s posts feature University of Utah students’ experiences in spring and summer internships.
Madison Lodico, Junior, Biomedical Engineering
After a minute or so of trying to communicate something far beyond my extremely limited German vocabulary, the bus driver gives up, letting out a chuckle and gesturing for me to get on to the bus. After four more days of this, despite the avails of four separate bus drivers, I would finally figure out I was trying to get on the bus at not a bus stop at all, but at the service area. The real bus stop was down the street – why I didn’t question that I was the only person getting on there is worth pointing out, and something I retrospectively wonder about.
What brought me to my public transport mishap was the opportunity to intern for the University of Bonn Hospital in Germany. This summer, I have been working in a research lab in the Branch of Medical Psychology at the hospital. The program has allowed me to gain experience closely related to my major, biomedical engineering, contribute to research I am interested in, like how vagus nerve stimulation impacts reward processing, and see cultural differences in daily life as well as the workplace.
Some of these differences between life in Germany and the United States include a slower pace of life, a stronger importance placed following the rules, and an increase in straightforwardness. In practice this has looked like longer meal times, not having jaywalked in months, and shorter emails. Some similarities include finding connection in commonality, whether it’s bonding over traffic in the US or delayed trains in Germany, and the importance of honesty, specifically in research. Whether it’s the neuroengineering lab I work for in the US or the medical psychology lab I work for here in Germany, both look to practice ethical science. Above all I’ve noticed that kindness to try and help another person transcends cultural and language barriers – my coworkers bringing me various German cookies and candies to try, looks of understanding in the mutual suffering of riding in an overcrowded train, and the effort to try to communicate despite not having a language in common.
This summer I’ve been able to improve my ability in Matlab code, learn to collect electrogastrogram data, and figured out how to ride the bus. However, possibly most importantly what I’ve learned is that small cultural differences pale in comparison to what people agree is important – connection, transparency, effort, and collaboration.