How do you plan travel to a foreign country in three weeks? I am in the middle of finding out. I am fortunate enough to have a Graduate Research Fellowship from the National Science Foundation. Each year they offer their fellows the opportunity to apply for a Graduate Research Opportunity Worldwide (GROW). This year I applied to travel to Australia for the summer to conduct research at the University of Newcastle. Unfortunately, it is a slow process as many countries are involved in the application process. So I had written off being accepted until they called me two weeks ago to tell me otherwise.
Every student should take advantage of the opportunities that arise during grad school. Now, you do have to learn to say “no” occasionally otherwise you will be overloaded. However, there are certain opportunities you should never pass up if they are feasible for you.
Last fall I worked with my advisor and the University of Newcastle to develop a proposal to explore student out of school science experiences. It is related to our current work examining student interest in and access to STEM. I wanted to really dig down into the out of school science experiences students have- not just the check list of expected things we usually use. We are trying to identify the out of school experiences that underrepresented groups so that we can help leverage those into an interest in STEM and STEM careers.
Choosing a country
I had really struggled with which country I wanted to apply for out of all of the possible choices for GROW. Some of the difficulties were due to language barriers but the biggest challenge was finding someone who was willing to host me. This is where you need to leverage your network. I was talking with my undergraduate thesis advisor about the struggle I was having. He told me I actually knew someone in Australia. It turned out that the head of the College of Education from UNCW when I was in undergrad is now the head of the College of Education at the University of Newcastle.
Australia is a great country to partner with. They are doing a lot of work to be more inclusive of their underrepresented groups in education. It will be a great place to do a comparative study with the work our team is conducting here in the US. The department is also wonderful as they have 200 partner schools that they already work with.
Getting organized: Let’s GROW!
So with three or so weeks to plan, I have begun organizing my life to travel abroad. I have a “to pack” list, a “to buy” list, and a “check list” list. Thankfully my passport is always current and Australia has very easy visa protocols. I also already have research permission to cover the work which was one of the more concerning issues.
The major moral of the story is: if you are going to apply to go abroad to do research, make sure you get your ducks in a row. Just in case you get a last minute approval. Thankfully I had a lot of it organized already and the rest can come together in a pinch. I can’t wait to share the process once it really gets going.
Until next time,