I recommend this option if you speak French
In February of 2011 I was excited to receive an email from Dr. Luiz Bermudez detailing a summer research opportunity in Toulouse, France. The program was exactly what I was looking for. It would allow a student to gain research experience while living abroad and learning about another culture. I applied for the position and was fortunate enough to be selected. Over the next few months I spent many hours planning out the experience with CVM and researchers/administrators at Ecole Nationale Vétérinaire de Toulouse (ENVT).
A few days after completing my finals I left for France to begin the project. Unfortunately, I resigned from my position after only one week due to a family issue. I felt an enormous sense of disappointment, as many people invested a lot of time, effort and money into creating the research partnership. While I was only at ENVT for one week, I feel as though I learned a great deal during my time there and throughout the planning process. I hope to detail a few things that may be beneficial to any future students who choose to work a summer at the veterinary school in Toulouse.
It takes a long time to plan out all of the details that go into spending the summer abroad. While OSU provided the funding for my project, everything else was arranged with the ENVT staff, who, unlike most of the faculty at Oregon State, do not check their email everyday. There were times that it took as long as 2 weeks to get a response to a question.
Many of the forms that I was required to fill out were in French and had to be translated before being passed along to me. There were forms for me and forms for CVM to fill out. This took quite a bit of time.
I was surprised to find out that the veterinary school is over half an hour from the city center. This meant that it required at least 20-minutes to reach the nearest grocery store or restaurant.
The ability to speak French and to communicate effectively is essential to be able to benefit from this experience, from planning to time spent at the veterinary school. While Catherine Viguié, the researcher I was working with, spoke fluent English, the other people I met spoke only French. I had to rely on Catherine to answer all of my questions and for my communication with most of the other people in the laboratory. This complicated both my ability to work on various projects and to meet new people. I was also informed that, if I had been able to speak French, I could have had the opportunity to work in the clinics at the veterinary school when not busy with my research project, a significant amount of time because my contributions to the research project only required a few hours each day.
Some advice to future CVM/ENVT students:
Get as much information as possible about the area and project before leaving and make sure you understand exactly what is meant. Even though we attempted to have all of the details arranged before I left, there were still a few surprises when I arrived in Toulouse. For example, in my communication with ENVT, I was told that I would be provided with a flat. Upon arrival I was placed into a dorm room for which I paid, and I was one of a very few students in the building, making it difficult to meet French students.
Be sure to define what role an OSU student has in the research project. There were a few assays that I was not cleared to run because of my status as a foreign student.
It was with great sadness that I was forced to leave my role at ENVT where I would have had the opportunity to work with a supervisor as knowledgeable and supportive as Catherine Viguié. During my short time in France she showed me extraordinary kindness and put a lot of effort into ensuring that I enjoyed my stay. Though I was not able to complete my research project, I feel as though I learned a great deal. I hope that my experience helps future Oregon State students who wish to spend time at ENVT.
Sean Brady, Class of 2013