This summer I worked as a research intern in Freiberg, Saxony in Germany. I participated in the DAAD Germany RISE program, and I researched how modified clays with organic compounds could be used to filter out carbamazepine from water. This summer ended up being the most exciting, challenging, and enriching time of my life! From developing my own experimental plan, to traveling from West to East Europe, to traveling alone for the first time, there was always something new to try or see. The opportunities I had were one of a kind, and I am excited to share my story with you.

The RISE program gave me the opportunity to learn German for two weeks in Cologne and it was a blast! I had the benefit of meeting other RISE interns from across the United States and Canada. Learning German for two weeks gave me enough understanding to realize that…I am actually terrible at German.  I learned just how important learning other languages is, especially in Europe, where you can take a train 4 hours in any direction and the people there speak a different language and have a completely different culture. Learning languages and breaking down those cultural barriers are what give us the opportunities to explore the world.

My research project consisted of modifying particular clay type (Chinese Bentonite) organic compounds. We mixed these modified clays with a known concentration of carbamazepine or bisphenol-A. We mixed the two, separated them, and then measured the liquid remaining to get our final concentration. We found that these modified clays are quite capable of filtering out these contaminants from water! However, there is much work that needs to be done to make this full scale and accessible to all. Being a part of this project was a dream come true. Research projects provide a chance to make an impact on the world, one project at a time. That is what I love about research and that is what inspires me to pursue a master’s degree in Environmental Chemistry.

If a TSA agent asked me if this trip was “for business or pleasure,” I’d have to say both! Monday through Friday I was working, but when the weekend came, I had the entirety of Europe at my fingertips. I was able to visit Prague, Vienna, Berlin, and Amsterdam, just to name a few. There wasn’t a single weekend I took off to relax or unwind. I have found that traveling IS my way of unwinding and relaxing. Traveling has become my hobby and I absolutely love it. My experience was truly what they call “a once in a lifetime experience”. From now until forever, I will continue being an advocate for traveling and exploring the unknown. This opportunity has given me the skills to continue researching as a graduate student and the grit to pursue whatever I may think is impossible.