Michael Mingyar

Departure Date:
Return Date:
Local Institution:
Local Advisor:
Maura McLaughlin
Foreign Institution:
SKA South Africa
Foreign Advisor:
Sarah Buchner
Student Status:
  • Q. What country were you staying in?
    • South Africa
  • Q. Where were you doing research?
    • SKA South Africa
  • Q. How long were you there?
    • 10 weeks
  • Q. What sort of research were you doing?
    • Our primary job was “quality controlling” the data taken by the SKA. We were the first to look through the observations and make sure everything worked, and if it didn’t we sent it to those who could fix the issues. Aside from this, were were tasked with analyzing the properties of specific pulsars and comparing the results with those taken from Parkes in Australia for commissioning purposes.
  • Q. Did being abroad influence the kind of research you’re doing?
    • This year pushed me over the boundary of “barely following” and “actively learning”. While the kind of research itself has not changed, I now understand the the science behind radio astronomy magnitudes better than I did before, opening up many doors for future research opportunities.
  • Q. What’s the coolest thing about being abroad?
    • The coolest thing about being abroad is being able to meet people from such different backgrounds. I had a group of friends this summer, and only two of the six of us were from the same place, and in total we were from four different countries. Making friends who can broaden your worldview is something abroad programs provide that cannot be replaced.
  • Q. What’s your favorite new phrase from the language?
    • Sadly (or conveniently) South Africans all speak english, but they do have their own unique slang. “Hectic” is a word thrown around just about whenever the opportunity presents itself. One might say it’s a bit hectic. That’s my favorite word from South Africa.
  • Q. What’s the hardest thing about being abroad?
    • The hardest thing is finding the motivation to get out of your comfort zone and explore your world. It’s all too easy to get stuck in a rut and only go between work and home, but not doing so is what makes the experience so enjoyable.
  • Q. What did you do in your free time?
    • We hiked, rock climbed, bouldered, explored the city, went to local events, hung out with students, and just generally enjoyed life in Cape Town.
  • Q. What’s the coolest thing you’ve done or seen while abroad?
    • Cape Town is a massive city, and it has a massive national park right in the center of it. My roommate and I would go out on top of the mountain, pick a direction and just get lost (though we always made sure we weren’t completely helpless). We would find rock faces on the sides of mountains and just climb around and enjoy the view. We found a few caves as well, and long forgotten trails. We never had a problem finding our way back, and we had friends to call if we ever were stuck anywhere.
  • Q. What’s the weirdest thing you’ve done or seen while abroad?
    • During a cultural event called “First Thirsdays” the city is alive with food, drink, art, and music. We were walking between art galleries when a man shouted at us asking if we wanted to “experience true African food”. We had already eaten so I wasn’t too interested, but my friends pushed us into the basement of the restaurant. The man asked me if I wanted to try something, and I just said “sure” even though I didn’t really hear him since the music was so loud. My friends all looked at me wide-eyed and I knew I had made some kind of mistake. He lead me to the end of the end of the table and showed me a bowl of fried caterpillars. So I ate a fried caterpillar. Wasn’t that bad, honestly. Though the texture was not exactly desirable.
  • Q. What advice would you offer others thinking of going abroad?
    • Leave your house! Spend as little time there as your comfortable with, because the world around you is what’s worth experiencing. You can live in your head when you get back to the States.
  • Q. What skills have you learned abroad?
    • As dumb as it may seem, I learned to hang-dry my laundry. I was always dead-set on using a dryer, but now I haven’t used one in four months, and I’ve only been back for one. I just hang my clothes in my apartment to save electricity and money.
  • Q. Is there anything you’d do differently or anything you wish you’d have known?
    • The first time I said I wish I would have documented my trip more and and gone out more. Since this was my second time, I took my own advice and took many pictures and videos of all the times we went out. I don’t think I have any regrets this time around.