Amar Bukvic's Internship

UVA Career Center – June 29th, 2017

The sun rises at 0501 with roosters from the neighboring park reminding you of the day that is about to begin. Cobble stoned streets awaken with activity in much the same way as when they were laid down during the renaissance. Local pastry, bakery, and coffee shops open their doors throughout the residential streets awaiting the hungry commuter with strong drips of espresso and pain au chocolate. There is diversity among the people on the streets but they all seem to act in unison entering the tram, riding their bicycles, or walking to where they need to be. You awaken to a living, breathing city that you are not only a part of but a city that becomes a part of you. This is Ghent, Belgium.

Ghent is the second largest municipality in Belgium located in the Flemish portion of the country. Dutch is the primary language spoken among its inhabitants but it is just as common to hear the locals speak perfect English. The University of Ghent kindly invited me to their biomedical laboratory this summer for a chance to learn and exchange ideas in all things medical. As a member of the University known as HoGhent, I enjoy amenities such as quite luxurious student housing, discounts at their canteens, and the status and title as a faculty collaborator. From my email address to my ID card, I have been given special privileges equaling that of faculty and professional staff.

In order to foster a well-rounded intro to their university and as their first pioneering exchange student, I have been given three different programs to participate in over my six weeks. Besides a general HoGhent centered task, I also am involved with their occupational therapy, dietics, and biomedical programs. An emphasis on practicality and hands-on techniques differs staggeringly with the US. The end result is me happily participating in research, experiments, and workshops not as an observer or intern but as a member of the team that has full rights and responsibilities.

The internship is half of the story. Living in Belgium is full of surprises, confusion, pure joy, and wonderful food and drink. The global aspect of this internship is the truly uncomfortable part that I have no experience with. I have a few cultural mistakes including almost getting the cops called on me when I tired the absolutely nonsensical Belgian self-checkout. All in all, every mistake or moment of glory teaches me something about Belgium but more importantly about myself which I can use when I return to the US.