Virginia Cunningham

Departure Date:
Jul. 01 2013
Return Date:
Aug. 12 2013
Local Institution:
West Virginia University
Local Advisor:
Maura McLaughlin
Foreign Institution:
University of Amsterdam
Foreign Advisor:
Anna Watts / Jason Hessels
Student Status:

I spent 6 weeks at the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands. I was working on Millisecond Pulsar data tables and plotting relationships to analyze the quality of the data. My work will also be used as templates for future users to simplify the tables. Being abroad definitely had a big impact on me. Before I was a little unsure about which academic path I wanted to take, but now I’m positive that I want to go into scientific research. My favorite part about being abroad was meeting so many different people from different countries. I chose to go to Amsterdam because I didn’t really know as much about Northern Europe and I learned so much just by talking to the people I worked with and just in the city. It was great being in Amsterdam because even though the national language is Dutch, everyone spoke almost perfect English. So I got to experience a new language while still being able to talk to everyone. I don’t have a particular favorite phrase in Dutch but I really like how when I first would see something written it would look so strange to my American eyes, just a jumble of crazy random letters, but then when I heard it spoken it sounded very similar to the English word! The hardest part I experienced being abroad was I had trouble making friends. I was only there for 6 weeks and I was put in the department with the PhD students and postdocs, so everyone was significantly older than me and permanent residents. That being said, everyone was so nice and friendly. It just would have been nice to have someone to explore the touristy parts of the city with. In my free time I usually explored Amsterdam on my bike. It’s a beautiful city with great bike paths leading anywhere you want to go. I think the coolest part about being abroad was being able to travel to other countries on the weekend. I traveled to England, Paris, and Italy while I was there and it was so strange to think that I could just fly off to another country for a weekend! I experienced a lot of weird things while I was abroad but one of my favorite ones was watching the native Hollanders ride their bikes. They would carry all kinds of ridiculous things on their bikes with no problems - multiple children, mattresses, animals, a weeks worth of groceries, or even ride two bikes at once! My advice to other people going abroad is to just try to do and see as many things as possible. Also, I did a tour of Amsterdam on my first day there, which was great because it gave me a feel for the city and the guides have lots of great ideas for things to do. Also, just talk to everyone, people in stores, on the train, anywhere. People are nice and generally like to help you. I wish I would have met more people who were my age. But in general I had an amazing time and I don’t regret anything!