Summer internship in Iceland gives ‘new focus and passion’

For Julia Handel, who is spending her summer interning at Reykjavik University in Iceland through the International Internship Program (IIP) at UW-Madison, interning abroad has enriched her life and reaffirmed her passion.

Julia Handel at Reykjavik University

What area or project are you working on currently at Reykjavik University? 

I am currently an intern at the Icelandic center for Neurophysiology and am working with analytics for an EEG postural control study. I work with two other interns regularly, and we have also been assigned various tasks, as the research group has needed assistance throughout the summer.

How did you know about this opportunity to Iceland and why did you choose this internship?

I learned about this internship through an email I received from IIP. I became familiar with their programs my first year on campus, and since then have always thought about doing an internship abroad.

Are there other UW students or alumni in Reykjavik University? What does it feel like to meet your fellow Badgers abroad?

We are currently working with two UW alumni in our research. One is our direct supervisor and helped to get this program started. Additionally, there are two other UW students here who are working on the same projects as myself. It has been cool to see how expansive the UW-Madison network is, and the connections I have built here will serve me well in the future.

Did you learn Icelandic before your went to Iceland? Do you need to know the language to live there?

I did not learn Icelandic before coming to Iceland, and you certainly do not need it to find your way around. Most people speak English as it is taught in schools, but I have picked up on some common Icelandic phrases.

What has been the most interesting or shocking thing that you have encountered during your time abroad?

I would say the most shocking thing since coming to Reykjavik is that the city itself is very much so an international city. I have met people from nearly every continent, and the internship workplace has several individuals from France, Germany, Italy, and Spain making it a very global workplace.

What does it feel like to be in the largest private university in Iceland? Is it different from your experience in UW-Madison?

Although Reykjavik University is the largest private University in Iceland, it is much smaller than UW-Madison. As much as Reykjavik is a large city, it is very common to see people you know when exploring the city center on a Sunday. I have frequently seen many of my co-workers downtown on the weekends. Additionally, I have seen a lot of collaboration between departments, which leads me to believe that Reykjavik University is a very collaborative and tight-knit group.

Have you had another internship and if so, how was this one different from the others?

I have not had another internship, but I have worked in other research labs. This particular experience has presented many challenges I have not seen before and has definitely pushed me to learn more about cross-cultural communication and grow in ways I never would have had I not had an international internship.

Does your experience in Iceland change your plan for future and how?

My experience in Iceland has certainly informed me on my future plans. It has reaffirmed my love for biomedical engineering, and I look forward to continuing my studies in the fall with new focus and passion.

What advice do you have for future students who are interested in participating in an international internship?

All of the fears you have about potentially taking an international internship will quickly disappear the second you step off the plane in a new country. If you are fortunate enough to participate in an international internship, do not let it pass you by. You will learn more about yourself and the world around you than you ever thought possible.  The IIP staff is very supportive and provides you with all of resources you need to have an amazing experience.