Winter break is a wonderful time to explore summer research abroad, whether through established programs that may still have upcoming deadlines, IIP research internships (applications due February 16) or finding something independently.
Much like on campus, reaching out directly to labs and PIs can be a great way to find a lab experience abroad that suits your unique interests and goals. It can be intimidating, but is possible! IIP works with students each year successfully navigating independent research experiences abroad.
Think about your priorities for the research internship and what you want from the experience. Is there a specific theme or topic you want to focus on? Do you want to work in an English-speaking lab or would you like to hone your foreign language skills working with native speakers? Would you like to be in a large city or are you open to smaller cities? What skills do you already have and what do you hope to gain or learn?
Start with the Finding a Mentor guide from UW BioCommons, as many of the things to keep in mind here will also apply to contacting potential labs abroad. If you already have lab experience or other research connections on campus or closer to home, talk to them about their networks abroad or suggestions to get you started, or ask them to make an introduction if possible. Having a reference or personal connection to a researcher or lab abroad will make a big difference in their consideration and willingness to host. Identifying UW alumni with labs abroad can be another great point of connection.
Identify many potential options, be patient waiting for responses, and be gracious for any response, even if they cannot host you. You are building a network as you explore options and hopefully find your way to a good fit.
If you do get an offer, congratulations! But there’s more work to do before you can head abroad. Start by clarifying the details with the PI. You may want to ask the following questions:
What project will you be working on?
Who in the lab is your main contact?
What dates can they host you?
Do they have anything you should do to prepare, such as readings or other research?
Does their institution offer any coordination for incoming research students for visas, housing, etc. or do you need to do this independently?
IIP is available to advise you on questions related to visas, agreements, or insurance that might be needed for your experience. Students doing research abroad can also apply to take our online internship course through the Worldwide Internship Program. In addition to helping you navigate intercultural situations during your experience and supporting your professional development, enrollment can help you qualify for visas, agreements or funding to help make the experience possible. If agreements are required, course enrollment is often needed to meet campus requirements – so early planning is essential.
Have any other questions about doing research abroad? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, set an appointment with an IIP Advisor, or come to walk-in advising Fridays 10am-1pm in 259 Bascom Hall.