From Bangladesh to Germany amidst the Pandemic
When I reminisce on my journey to Germany from my home country Bangladesh for the pursuit of higher education, it almost feels like a rollercoaster ride but with a pleasant ending. It all started with my unwavering passion for pursuing a postgraduate degree in the field of immunology, which led me to apply for graduate programs abroad in 2020 knowing well that the path is challenging yet achievable. But fate took a darker turn when Covid-19 slammed the world to a standstill. Uncertainty hit and my goal started to feel almost unachievable. However, my resilience paid off and I got into the Elite Graduate Program "Integrated Immunology" (iImmune) at FAU Erlangen-Nürnberg. Despite my thrill and delight, I too fell victim to the delayed visa processing during the pandemic like many international students. I happily accepted the offer from iImmune to start online. All the faculty and students tried to keep me involved and always supported me to participate in lectures, tutorials and seminars despite the great distance. When, after a year of nervous waiting, I finally got the visa and moved to Germany, I was lucky enough to meet the big iImmune family right away at our yearly internal retreat.
The retreat was eventful and memorable
We started our journey for a 2-day retreat on a nice summer morning to the Fraunhofer Research Campus in Waischenfeld, situated at the center of the scenic Franconian Swizerland. Prof. Nimmerjahn inaugurated the event with a warm welcome to the students, alumni, lecturers, and the external scientific advisory board after which he concisely reviewed the past academic year. Then, the program successively unfolded as our advisory board Prof. Da Costa, Dr. Grawunder, Prof. Fillatreau, and Prof. Martensson-Bopp briefly discussed their research fields followed by some engaging presentations from students of the second cohort on their Master thesis topics and on their overall experience of the internships abroad. We were also fortunate that some of our alumni from the first cohort took part in the retreat. They presented not only what they acquired from the degree program but also on how it benefitted their successive careers. Afterwards, through an interactive session allotted for career discussion, they gave us valuable suggestions on myriad issues such as internships abroad, master theses and suitable career options post-graduation. It was also fascinating to witness how a short hiking tour together, an after-dinner get-together and small coffee breaks sparked some lively conversations on varied scientific topics among groups, which I was of course glad to be a part of. Furthermore, several sessions were intended to assess and to fine-tune the master program. As such, Prof. Nimmerjahn elucidated the evaluation report based on a prior survey taken by us - the third cohort students and jotted down the aspects to be refined, and afterward, our advisory board convened with us into small groups where we shared our thoughts on different aspects of the program with mere criticism and much praise. Finally, the event wrapped up with a final discussion and farewell. Overall, I found the retreat to be highly resourceful thanks to stimulating scientific lectures, useful suggestions by peers, and open discussions and also it is worth mentioning that after a year of online study, it was truly refreshing for me to be in presence of my colleagues and faculties enabling me to create this overwhelming memories. They motivated me extremely for my further studies here on site.
Text: Susnigdha Sen, student of the Elite Graduate Program „Integrated Immunology“)
Translation into German: Dr. Anja Glanz, coordinator of the Elite Graduate Program „Integrated Immunology“