Isabella Cuan, a student at University of Pennsylvania came to PKP 2016 as a Thouron Scholar. She reflects on her time at Cambridge.
What made you want to apply to come to PKP?
I wanted to go on a summer programme that meant I could study abroad because I can’t go on semesters abroad as I’m a Pre-Med student. I also liked the supervision option, which we have to take as Thouron scholars. I did my supervision on neuroscience, which is my field, but I took the History of Medicine course and one of the Architecture courses which were great for giving me an experience of something else. The Architecture class was a great way to take advantage of being in Cambridge because there were visits to the chapels around Cambridge that I might not otherwise have seen.
How would you describe the supervisions?
Challenging in the best way possible. It’s also a great opportunity to delve deep into a subject which is great prep for doing research. It is thorough independent research combined with being able to bounce ideas off these very experienced professors/researchers. A really great experience and it makes you think in ways that you haven’t had to think before, I’d never been put in that position before where I had to think outside of the box. The most challenging part is to constantly have to come up with new ideas.
What have been the biggest differences for you?
The relationship between professor and student is different here. It was one of the first things that the professors acknowledge at the start of the classes. You can get a tea/coffee with the professors and that’s normal and expected which makes them accessible. It’s much more natural to have that relationship with your lecturer here.
Also I noticed that back home everyone is involved with so many extra-curriculars but here that isn’t as normal. I expected Cambridge to be similar to the Ivy League where everyone is constantly involved in everything, involved in so much; sports, activities. Whereas talking to the PAs, that’s not how it is here. It’s not the life-style, they may be interested in one or two things but their academics are first and their social life is different because of it.
Is there anything you expected that hasn’t matched up with reality?
I came in thinking that I would travel every weekend, but I think I discovered such a value in immersing yourself in where you are. Eight weeks is enough time to feel like you’re a part of the city and that’s such a nice thing to have and I’m really grateful for it. I’m not even upset that I haven’t travelled to some of the places I thought I would go. To not feel like a foreigner is great.
What will you take away from your experience?
The thing I will take away is the people. On the one hand it’s the locals and the lifestyle people have here, I was surprised just how vastly different the culture actually is here and I think being immersed in a different lifestyle can also shed light on how we live our lives back home. But above all it’s the people I have met on PKP, it’s been so incredible to get to know every person and where they come from and how they view the world. A lot of the time we aren’t afforded this opportunity to get to know so many people because everyone’s so busy but they really encourage us to make the most of being in Cambridge, at this time, with these people. The Thouron program also allows us the chance to have something in common with a group which just helps us to become even better friends.