Welcome back to the HPA Summer Spotlight! Our Summer Spotlight series explores the interesting, and in many cases unconventional, summer experiences of Princeton’s prehealth community. Tianyi is a senior Woody Woo major, and she is also pursuing a certificate in Global Health and Health Policy (GHP). When asked about her favorite courses here at Princeton, GHP 350 (Critical Perspectives in Global Health) and American Sign Language stood out.
Last summer, Tianyi had the opportunity to participate in a Health Grand Challenge internship in Vietnam through the GHP summer internship offerings. The internship was with the Oxford University Clinical Research Unit (OUCRU) in Hanoi. In Hanoi, Tianyi shared a three bedroom apartment with two other Princeton students also working at OUCRU. The apartment was about a twenty-minute taxi ride from the office, and she and her roommates shared a ritual of grabbing breakfast from shops and street vendors before sharing a cab ride into work together. She said that they all got to know the vendors pretty well, and finding herself in this small community of peers and the vendors was one of the highlights of her summer.
At the beginning of her internship, Tianyi was assigned to a big data project tracking antibiotic use over time. Her day in the office was typically around 9:30 am to 5 pm, and often included a long lunch break. The office was setup in an open concept format to encourage collaboration between staff members, and Tianyi described the office culture and vibe as casual; she was able to develop friendships with many of her co-workers. The antibiotic use project involved formulating her own research questions that aligned with project goals and running data analysis in R. She had senior staff members there to guide and advise her, and they would provide input on her work and act as sounding board for her research questions.
Tianyi had taken an R-based data analysis course at Princeton (POL 345/SOC 345) before starting her internship, which helped her with the basics of her project. She was quick to point out that her experience with R was not at a “professional level” and she had to gain more hands-on experience with R to do her work effectively. She said that many of the staff members at OUCRU were experts and were happy to support her in her development as informal mentors.
When we asked what she appreciated most about her summer experience, Tianyi said, “The people.” She enjoying becoming close with her co-workers and the larger Hanoi community. She especially misses the banh mi vendor down the street from her apartment : a nice older woman who even invited Tianyi to spend lunch with her one day!
Tianyi’s biggest takeaway from her summer experience was that she was able to accomplish a lot more than she realized. She was able to study for the MCAT while in Hanoi, all while producing a high standard of work, having fun with coworkers and classmates, and being in a great place mentally. She attributed this to feeling a sense of belonging in the community, rising to the occasion, and being motivated in her personal and work goals. While her other Princeton summers have been great, she said her time in Hanoi was definitely the best summer experience she has had so far. Her advice for students looking at summer opportunities was for students to ask themselves what they want to get out their summer and to not be discouraged if you get into an internship without a lot of experience. She also emphasized that communication with supervisors is essential—that students should be clear about the experience they do have and work with their supervisors to find meaningful ways to contribute to projects.