Sara Bartolucci (Department of Physics), UBC Summer 2016

Sara Bartolucci at UBCIn the summer of 2016, I carried out an eight-week research placement at UBC in Vancouver: an invaluable experience both personally and academically. Although I had already done a UROP in London the year before, I found this placement completely different from my previous one.

For the first time, I found myself separated from my friends and family by an entire ocean and continent. This encouraged me to be as open as possible towards the new people I met, both local and international students. I spent my lunch breaks and some free time after work with the Canadian graduate students I met in the department and took part in the activities organised by my residence for us students from all around the world living there. This was a fantastic opportunity to come in close contact with many different cultures.

As the community in Vancouver is extremely international, I had the chance to discover diverse habits and traditions outside UBC too; I really enjoyed visiting the many international festivals taking place during the summer, which included ethnic music, shows and especially foods, like sushi, shawarma and even hot dogs with Teriyaki sauce.

My fellow exchange students from London and I formed a very close group and organised different activities every weekend to explore the city and its surroundings. We took advantage of the incredible beauty of the nature in British Columbia, going on several hiking trips to the forests, mountains and lakes. The highlight, in my opinion, was kayaking around Bowen Island, where we also saw eagles and seals. In addition, we spent the long BC day weekend on Vancouver Island, played beach volley, saw fireworks and went out Downtown for dinners and drinks together.

Carrying out an individual, highly theoretical project, as opposed to the more group-based and applied one I had done before, highlighted my preference for the latter and helped me clear my mind about the type of studies I would like to become involved in after my graduation. Equally useful for future decisions was the chance I had to learn about the system of graduate studies and the research environment in Canada and North America in general; undoubtedly, I came out of this placement with a much wider spectrum of universities to consider for my future career as a researcher.

When I accepted the offer for this placement in Vancouver, I had many questions about my future studies. I wanted to clear my mind about the type of research I would like to carry out as well as the place and system that would suit me best. 

"I could not have asked for a better experience to guide my future career decisions, so I would definitely recommend it to any undergraduate wishing to pursue a career in academia like me"