Peter Gentile

Departure Date:
Jun. 04 2013
Return Date:
Aug. 22 2013
Local Institution:
West Virginia University
Local Advisor:
Maura McLaughlin
Foreign Institution:
ASTRON
Foreign Advisor:
Jason Hessels
Student Status:
Graduate Student
  • Q. What country were you staying in? The Netherlands.
  • Q. What university were you attending/doing research at? ASTRON
  • Q. How long were you there? About 3 months.
  • Q. What sort of research were you doing? was working on transient detection software to add to the LOTAAS survey pipeline.
  • Q. Did being abroad influence the kind of research you’re doing? I programmed a lot more over there than I typically do here, so it made me realize how much I love the programming aspect of Astronomy research. I think I want to move more in that direction now.
  • Q. What’s the coolest thing about being abroad? Oh, man. Well, it’s probably pretty dependent upon where you stay, but the cool thing about Europe is that everything’s so close together. You’re only a couple hours’ train ride from some really cool and different places, so it’s all really accessible. Another awesome thing is just the people you meet. The program that I did over the summer included five other students, from places like who worked at ASTRON. And I don’t necessarily mean cultural is in research and development, so it’s not all Astronomy, really. It’s interesting to be among people who have a hand in every step of the process that results in your data, from working on the software that makes the telescope tick to actually designing the receivers in Faraday-caged rooms. Really cool stuff.
  • Q. What’s your favorite new phrase from the language? People mostly spoke English.
  • Q. What’s the hardest thing about being abroad? Not feeling 100% comfortable. I’m the type of person who, for the most part, feels comfortable almost anywhere, but I don’t really think it’s possible to feel completely comfortable when you have one piece of furniture for your clothes, or when your towels are given to you at the beginning of the week, or when you don’t have your own pillows. In terms of daily luxury type stuff, it was a lot like being on vacation for a long time, and there’s a reason that it sometimes feels good to come back from vacation.
  • Q. What did you do in your free time? hey always seemed to have something planned at ASTRON. On Tuesdays, they had a soccer game, Wednesdays was bridge nights, and sometimes on Mondays they had game nights. Plus, there always seemed to be a garden party of cookout planned. When there wasn’t something planned by ASTRON, it was easy to catch a train to a nearby town, where you could go to a dance club or maybe even a town-wide festival. There was always something to do.
  • Q. What’s the coolest thing you’ve seen or done while abroad? It’s really hard to decide. I’d probably say the coolest thing was meeting the people I met. I know that sounds like a canned answer, but it really changed my view of the world. It’s one thing to think about going to Italy or Korea to see the place and experience the country, but it’s a totally different feeling to know someone that lives there and want to visit them. You have a more emotional connection to those places, even if you’ve never been there. Sometimes it makes me feel excited, sometimes nostalgic, sometimes lonely. Either way, it’s something I can’t imagine feeling without this experience.
  • Q. What’s the weirdest thing you’ve seen or done while abroad? Probably Wadlopen. Wadlopen translates as “mudflat hiking”, and that’s a pretty good description. Basically, you walk to an island off of the mainland at low tide. It’s pretty cool because the whole path is basically just a huge mud pit. it can really bring out the kid in you (if you need help doing that).
  • Q. What advice would you offer others going abroad? Don’t think about it, just do it! Wherever you get the chance, whenever you get the chance, it’s worth it. Also, bring nail clippers. I know how weird that sounds, but I’ve been to another continent twice now and both times I forgot nail clippers and they were surprisingly hard to find. And it’s not like you can just hop in your car and drive around and find some.
  • Q. What skills have you learned abroad? think my language skills really increased while I was over there. Not that my grammar was bad before the experience or anything, but I had never been around so many non-native english speakers before. It made me think about my own language in a totally different way, and it’s still an odd feeling to actually think about what I’m saying and not to just speak naturally. Other than that, my bridge-playing skills dramatically increased!
  • Q. Is there anything you’d do differently or anything you wish you’d have known? think the only thing I would do differently is that I’d pack less. I took a ton of clothes, and I didn’t really need to, and eventually it was a big pain to carry that luggage around with me.