Studying and Interning Abroad in London as a Biology Major

Sep 21, 2015 1:30:00 PM / by Stephanie Sadler

CAPA Study Abroad Interview: Roshni Patel

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Roshni Patel studied abroad in London during summer 2015 where she completed an internship with Kings College Hospital that left a great impression on her and equipped her with key skills that will give her an edge in her future career. Below, she tells us about a day in her life as a science intern, how she beat the odds to study abroad considering she is a STEM major and a first generation student from a low income family and about her experience of London as a diverse global city full of opportunity.  

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CAPA WORLD: Tell us a bit about yourself.
ROSHNI PATEL: I participated in the CAPA London internship program for the first half of this summer. I am a double major in Biology and Government at the University of Texas at Austin and have just entered my senior year this fall. I love to travel, explore different cultures, go out with friends and take an occasional nap or two. I also am a news junkie and like to keep up with what is going on in the world. 

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CW: How did you choose a study abroad program? Why did you choose to complete an internship abroad?
RP: I always knew that I wanted to go abroad and study in London, it was all a matter of deciding when and through which program. For me, a summer program seemed the best fit both for my major and financially. There are not many programs which are tailored to fit science majors, so a fair amount of research was necessary. I had heard of other students going abroad and doing an internship and thought this would be a great fit for whichever program I chose.

When I came across CAPA, I was sold as it seemed like the best fit. The admissions advisors were helpful and assured me that my major and career interests would not be a problem when placing me into an internship. I can say without a doubt that I made the best decision and my placement was far beyond what I imagined.

I was lucky enough to be placed at Kings College Hospital, the premier teaching hospital in London. Undertaking an internship not only builds a network for further career opportunities but it teaches real world skills that can be applied to one's future career goals. Having an internship in a foreign country is an added bonus as it brings international experience on top of the invaluable set of skills attained at the end of the internship.

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CW: What were the biggest challenges you faced when you decided to study abroad and how did you overcome them?
RP: Definitely one of the main challenges I faced was being able to fund my trip. Coming from a low income household, my tuition is funded entirely through financial aid. Early planning helped as I was able to work and save a good amount of money to actually consider the prospect of studying abroad. Also, research is imperative because there are numerous funding options out there, it just takes some effort to find them. I made of list of scholarships and their deadlines early on and was able to have time to apply and obtain letters of recommendations if needed. I applied for as many as I could and was lucky enough to win two major ones: the CAPA study abroad scholarship and the Gilman Scholarship. To anyone who receives the federal pell grant, I encourage them to apply for the Gilman Scholarship because without it, I would not have been able to go abroad.

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CW: What’s it like being a first-generation student? What was your family’s reaction when you decided to study abroad? 
RP: Being a first generation college student, for me, is not a disadvantage. It can be difficult in some cases but for those of us who pursue higher education, it's more of an asset. I have been able to pursue the same opportunities as students who are not first generation college students. It does however, provide a great sense of accomplishment that I will be graduating next year as a first generation college student.

When I chose to study abroad, my family thought it was a good idea. When I was actually accepted and booking my tickets, there was a great sense of excitement. I am the only person who has studied abroad in my entire family, including my extended family.

Obviously, being able to pay for a study abroad was a huge challenge. Luckily, I was able to secure the funding through working part-time, scholarship money, some help from my uncle and financial aid.

It was a great feeling being able to go to another country and travel throughout Europe. Not many people get to have such experiences. 

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CW: Did being a minority student from an Asian American background in any way affect your experience abroad? Also, talk a bit about your experience of London as a diverse global city.
RP: Being Asian American, I knew that I was part of an under-represented group when it comes to studying abroad. However, my background in no way affected my experience abroad. I think it was a great asset as I was able to build better cultural relationships with everyone I met.

London is an amazing city. I actually had visited London many times before as I have a lot of family in the greater London area. Even as I had been to this city, I still had a deep desire to come back during college and study abroad there.

It is the prime global city, with numerous languages, people, cultures, opportunities, and it is a major international hub; London has a great mix of everything. Every sector from business, law, medicine, politics, finance, sciences, the arts, and humanities are represented here. This makes it a great city to do an internship and gain invaluable work experience. Having completed an internship in London will definitely go down as one of my more memorable and rewarding experiences. 

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CW: Tell us about a day in your life as a CAPA intern.
RP: As an intern, my day would begin in the early morning with my commute which lasted around 45 minutes to an hour depending on what time I left and the rush hour. From the train station, it would be a 5 minute walk to Kings College Hospital.

My morning would begin with the daily trauma meetings where the consultants and physicians in training would discuss interesting cases from the previous day. I got a good amount of exposure to trauma and how high level cases are discussed. Then, I would either make my way down to the fracture clinic or operating theatre depending on the day. I usually observed during clinic and called in patients when the consultant was ready to see them. I would also get to read x-rays, learned how to spot fractures and got the back stories on the patients. I had the opportunity to shadow in the plaster room and see how plaster and other sutures were applied to injuries. In the operating theatres, I was lucky enough to be placed with the Trauma and Orthopedics team where I got to see different types of surgeries. During the later part of my day, I would partake in research under the guidance of one of the consultants. Our focus was on how Vitamin D levels differ between different ethnic backgrounds; this was necessary to create a database of comparison for the consultants to see where Vitamin D levels were lacking the most.

In all, my days were filled with new experiences and learning opportunities. I not only made friends but will always cherish the memories I made at Kings College Hospital. It was unlike any other experience I have had and showed me a more in-depth side of medicine.

Along with our classes and internships, CAPA interns undertake a supplemental seminar called Learning Through Internships to allow us to better understand our placements and the work culture in the United Kingdom. We would meet once a week and discuss our internships, anything interesting, and do group activities to better understand our experiences. 

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CW: What were some of your responsibilities and your most memorable accomplishment? Share an impact you made on the company and one your colleagues made on you.
RP: As a student intern, I was there to learn and ask questions. I was expected to show up on time to clinic and the operating theatres dressed appropriately and ready to begin. I was also expected to pay attention to patient histories and answer questions when asked by the consultants. With regard to my research project, it was necessary for me to pay attention to detail and record vitamin D levels along with ethnic backgrounds.

My most memorable accomplishment was being able to spot fractures on the x-rays. I never thought I would be able to work so closely with the consultant physicians and they taught me so much. Being able to look at an x-ray and having some idea of what was occurring was an accomplishment that I am proud of. It was interesting as I was able to address many American stereotypes and explain the differences between the US and UK health care systems.  

My colleagues made me feel right at home and I became close with the staff. Thanks to my time at Kings I was able to build a network in the UK and will remember each person I worked with. Being at Kings College Hospital the majority of the week made me want to one day move back to London. I fell in love with the city, the atmosphere, the culture, and the people. To anyone who is considering study abroad, I highly recommend London as the place to be as being there has certainly changed my life.

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CW: What skills gained or nurtured at your internship will you be able to apply to your future career? Did your time abroad make you think differently about future career goals and aspirations?
RP: As an intern, I was able to gain an invaluable set of skills. I would have never imagined being able to work so closely with the staff and patients than I was able to this summer at Kings College Hospital. I became a better communicator during my time at Kings and learned the differences in work place standards in comparison to the United States. I was also able to learn how to read x-rays, and gained quantitative research skills from hands-on participation. My time abroad has showed me how much I desire to travel in my life and work after graduation. Although, medical school is not for certain, I do hope to travel for my work if possible and given the opportunity to do so. 

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CW: What has it been like to study abroad in London specifically as a biology major? What would you recommend in terms of things to see and for someone with an interest in health sciences?
RP: It can be difficult for science majors to find a program which fits with our degree plan. The sciences are under-represented in study abroad programs, however one should not let this be a barrier. London is a city with over 30 universities, numerous hospitals, and research centers; I felt that I was in the right place as London has so many internship and learning opportunities available. Even for someone who is only taking classes, many of the major hospitals have volunteer and shadowing opportunities (but double check visa regulations!). If its a teaching hospital you're interested in, they are more than willing to allow students to come in and shadow; it just takes some effort. 

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CW: Tell us about your local neighborhood while you were abroad. 
RP: I was lucky enough to stay in Camden, a borough in London. My flat was located right by the tube station, Camden High Street, and within walking distance of the Camden Market. Camden is a very young and eccentric part of London. There is a great culture present there along with a thriving nightlife. One very big part of Camden is Camden market which has an assortment of food stands and other vendors; it is usually packed and full of many diverse people. One thing I did not particularly find too appealing about Camden was the amount of garbage that flows through the streets at night. Other than that, Camden is a great place for students to live and I would recommend it to anyone who decides to study or travel to London. A short walk or bus ride away, Primrose Hill is a great location to watch the sunset and check out the London skyline. It is located in the more "posh" part of Camden and is worth a trip. 

Thanks Roshni!

Find out about the CAPA London program

 

Topics: London, England, Interviews, Internships Abroad