Meet the exchange students
In the second part of our series featuring personal accounts of Polish students who have taken part in the Scholarship Fund exchange programme, we meet Maja Starostecka who spent three months on placement in the Institute of Cancer Research in Oslo.
Maja, 22 years old, is a third year biotechnology student at the Politechnika Wrocławska (Wrocław University of Technology). She successfully applied for a grant from the Polish Training and Scholarship Fund, financed by the EEA and Norway Grants, to undertake a summer practical placement in 2014. A practical training period in a biotech company or research institute is a mandatory part of the degree. Maja found the exchange very rewarding, not just academically but also personally and socially. She will complete her Bachelor's degree in January 2016 and is already planning to continue with the Master's programme, potentially leading on to a PhD.
Read more about what the opportunity meant for her in her own words below.
Why did you decide to participate in the exchange?
From when I was a child, I have always dreamed about visiting a Scandinavian country. The exchange programme was an excellent way for bringing together my interest in this region with the opportunity of doing a valuable and intensive internship in cancer research.
What knowledge and skills do you feel that you gained during your exchange that you wouldn’t have otherwise?
Spending quality time with an internationally recognised research group from Institute of Cancer Research in Oslo was a great opportunity to meet outstanding and experienced researchers, get familiar with their passionate approach to the job and conduct experiments in state-of-the-art facilities for biochemical research. That traineeship made me truly realise that in the future I would definitely pursue a career in cancer translational medicine. During the exchange, I became much more self-confident and motivated to study even harder so that I could contribute to the worldwide fight with cancer.
Do any events or experiences from your stay really stand out in your memory?
I was really lucky to experience unusually good weather and a long summer. I enjoyed swimming regularly in lakes and the Oslo Fjord. I loved wandering around the streets of the city and the surrounding greenbelt. Once while walking to the Kragstotten sculpture and viewpoint through a dense forest I saw a herd of elks. Although it was one of the scariest moments of my life (because elks are huge and may attack if feel threatened), I am so grateful that I was able to admire them in their natural habitat. I will never forget the experience nor the breathtaking view (in the quite literal sense as well!).
Did you get involved in any extra-curricular activities or pursue any special interests while you were there?
After finishing my tasks in the lab, during the weekends I visited many museums (including many of the well-known ones as well as some off the beaten tourist track like a museum of forgery). I took a city walk to discover ‘Harry Hole's Oslo’ (Harry Hole is the main character in a series of crime novels written by Norwegian author Jo Nesbo), flew down a zipline from the top of Holmenkollen ski jump tower and tried all the attractions at the 'Tusenfryd' amusment park, even the most intimidating ones!
Last year, 205 students from 31 Polish universities took part in exchanges funded by the EEA and Norway Grants with institutions in Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.
“Our latest figures show that the appetite continues to grow. With each passing year, more and more exchanges are taking place. There are more and more contacts developing between institutions and cooperation is ever growing,” said Director of the Polish Scholarship and Training Fund, Katarzyna Aleksandrowicz.