I worked at the Heart Institute with the Laboratory of Genetic and Molecular Cardiology in addition to being a student at the University of São Paulo. The transition to living in Brazil was smooth for me as I was housed with other international students doing placements. This made it easier as you were among people who were in the same boat as you.
I got to meet students from all corners of the world. Even though I was thrown in at the deep end at work to become competent and independent in the lab as quick as I could in order to work on my own project, there seemed to be a balance between my social life and work. There was no need to commute to work as it was a five minute work from the residence I was staying at.
I have met some unforgettable people and have had some exceptional experiences with them; it’s safe to say I have made friends that I will keep in contact with throughout my life, who all live in different countries. These people and my experiences have changed the way I view certain things and I believe I have become a better person because of this.
At work I shadowed a group of colleagues who were working on their own projects. They took me in and made it easy for me to learn all the techniques I required for my project such as Western Blot analysis and BrdU Cell Proliferation ELISA. Also aseptic techniques while working with human and rat cells in culture, using laminar flow cabinets. Learning how to deal with contamination of cell cultures. When I was given my own project I felt very competent in carrying out my experiments and if I was not too sure about certain techniques there was always someone at the lab eager to help.
As you are a student work is a bit more relaxed with taking a few days off for traveling. I got the chance go to Rio de Janeiro and neighbouring places such as Paraty and Ilhabela. I had no intention of travelling to Brazil any time soon but decided immediately when I got the opportunity and heard I would be getting some funding through grants otherwise I would have not been able to finance this life changing experience.
Overall I had a better experience than I originally thought I would and now have plans to go back to Brazil and travel a bit more. I am very glad that I jumped at the opportunity.