What to do after graduating? I often asked myself that question during my last year, and some of you might ask yourself the same. Getting employed immediately would be ideal, of course, but I was aware that would be almost impossible. Mindlessly scrolling through my LinkedIn feed in breaks from writing my Master’s thesis, I found out about BioTechMed-Graz Lab Rotation Program after a friend shared about it and included a short summary of their own experience in Graz.
Immediately after reading the requirements, I realized I am in a bit of a time pickle: the deadline was six days away, including the weekend, and I also needed to find a mentor myself from a list they provided. I looked up every name connected to Molecular Biology, checked their websites and papers, and in the end made my top three choices, according to the rules of the application, which stated that you can not choose the field in which you did (or are doing) your thesis. I decided to send an email to the Professor whose work was most appealing to me and hope for a quick response. Somehow, I made the right choice, because the very next day, he replied with a positive confirmation, asking for an online meeting so we can go through the application together.
If you had followed me on my social media for a while, you know that I eventually got the scholarship and spent four months in Graz at the Institue for Molecular Bioscience, where I truly learned a lot. BioTechMed-Graz scholarship is appealing not only to students but also to labs because it secures monetary support for them as well. Although it is called a rotation, you actually spend all your time in one lab, but I really like that aspect, because it ensures you can learn how that one particular lab functions, and I feel like it doesn’t stress you out as much as an actual rotation might. Another thing that I really liked, is that, as a scholarship receiver, you still have some student rights, such as living in the student dorm, which greatly reduces anxiety about moving to another country, at least in my opinion.
I feel like I profited enormously from this internship, as I learned many new laboratory skills and methods, and learned how it is to work in an international team. I met new colleagues, and new friends, many of whom were very incredibly patient and helpful in my first two weeks when I was only working things out. I have to say, many things function differently than in the labs I was used to, and more often than not I had to stop and think where things were, going from chemicals to labs with equipment. My mentor was also incredibly approachable and understanding; honestly, you could not wish for a better boss.
When it comes to the non-academic part of life in Graz, I started just as another winter lockdown began. I was allowed to go to the lab and store, but that was it; cafes, restaurants, and museums, they were all closed. During spring I did finally visit some museums (you can get one year-long pass for something like 17 museums), a botanical garden (which is amazing), went hiking (Rettenbachklamm is so worth it), finally tried Dunkin Donuts (a little bit overpriced for my taste) and Nordsee fast food (I liked it and they also offer coupons on their Austrian website), and visited the Opera. I should also mention that Graz public transport includes trams and buses, and a monthly pass is 55€.
Altogether, I am so happy I had this wonderful opportunity of living and working abroad, meeting new people, and learning so many valuable skills; if you don’t have a job lined up, or just want that extra bit of experience, I would definitely suggest applying for this program!
I would also like to stress that you don’t have to already be a graduate to apply, you can be in the last semester of your program and still apply! I would only suggest starting the search for your mentors a bit earlier than I did 😉
If you have any questions about BioTechMed-Graz or would like to share your experiences with this one, or other paid post-graduate internships, please share them in the comments below! I always love to hear from you!