Biology student share experiences from internships in the Arctic
Biology student share experiences from internships in the Arctic

I want to get practical, let’s get into practical!

On the 17th of January 2021, I arrived in Lonyearbyen completely uncertain of what to expect. I am a biology bachelor student from Nord Universitet in Bodø, out on exchange for the semester. I consider myself extremely lucky, given that I’ve gotten a practical internship at UNIS’s arctic biology department during the mad times of COVID-19.

The last months have been quiet and mostly spent at home (large parts of studying eventually happened in my blanket fortress), thus I expect one of my biggest challenges to be to start living by a routine again and show up refreshed and ready to focus for a full day of work regularly. Additionally, many of the practical laboratory work of my study at Nord was greatly reduced due to the virus so I feel that I am being thrown in the deep end a bit. Nonetheless I feel excited and ready for it.

I consider learning by doing one of the most effective ways to learn – I don’t tend to easily forget the mistakes that I have made! Luckily I am also a fast learner so I trust myself to be able to keep up. Since I am in my last semester of my bachelor I would ultimately like to gain a great deal of practical experience in the laboratory such that I feel more ready to work as a biologist when I graduate. I hope that by applying all the theoretical knowledge I have learned over the years in a relevant and practical environment will give me the confidence that I think should come with a Bachelor degree in science. This could include anything from learning about the safety regulations to, sampling in the field. My main goal is to learn how to work independently in the laboratory environment with confidence in myself; thus also learning commonly used techniques and methods and learning to trust my skills! It would only be a slight exaggeration to say that my biggest fear would be to burn down the university by accident.

If everything goes well, I think this internship will give me a massive confidence boost both in my biology career as well as personal life. Regardless it will be interesting and educational to see what goes on “behind the scenes” of science, a part we often do not get to see when reading research papers, reading books, watching documentaries, etc, and work with fellow biologists who already have established careers! 

Emma van der Ploeg

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