When people ask me about my summer in India, I tell them that it was the most incredible, and incredibly challenging experience of my life. Coming from a place rich in racial and cultural diversity, to a country where I very clearly stood out as a foreigner was a surprising, and occasionally isolating experience. This often became a positive however, as it gave me the opportunity to have many conversations about my own background, and ask questions about the rich culture and history of India.
The list of new experiences I had in India ranges widely from my first time in a temple, to my first time riding a motorcycle, to my first surprise birthday party, and my first leech bite. Many of these adventures are thanks to my new friends at the Indian Institute of Science, who accepted me in the lab and the mess hall, and made me feel at home in an entirely unfamiliar world. They truly transformed my experience. My first night in India, I nearly skipped dinner because I was afraid of leaving my hostel in the dark. My last night in India, I was out until nearly 3 a.m. with friends because I was so reluctant to leave them in the morning.
In the lab, I was researching the causes of asymmetric cell division in yeast cells. While I have done research before, this was my first time researching full time, and I learned a lot about the discipline. My training was exciting, and I loved learning new lab techniques, microscopy, and data analysis. Once I got into my own project however, the real struggle hit me. The process of optimizing hoechst staining in the cells in order to visualize the nucleus was slow. Then the microscope was under repair. In retrospect, I was have a valuable encounter with the troubleshooting phase of research, but at the time, it was painful. In my final weeks in the lab, I was scrambling to finish my experiments and analyze the data, but ultimately I gathered some valuable information and was able to put together a presentation I was proud of.
My summer was engaging to almost all parts of my mind and body between research, cultural exploration, building friendships, tasting foods, and playing badminton. I will be sharing my stories for a long time. I can’t wait for my next experience in India, whenever the opportunity arises.