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SIT-Summer Institute in Taiwan
Academic Exchange & Cultural Experience in Taiwan
Interview with Jarel Gandhi (2014 SIT participant)

"I think SIT has been great. It is far beyond what I was expected." 

---Jarel Gandhi (2014 SIT Participant)

(1) Your motivation for joining this program.

(I know that there are 8 countries you can select for conducting your research. Why do you want to choose Taiwan?)

As Dr. Cheng mentioned, he has a good collaboration with Dr. Brey and Dr. Brey is my mentor back in the US. I was presented with the EAPSI program in a different way. I was first introduced to the collaboration here in Taiwan to expand my research and I was then encouraged to apply for the fellowship. So it was kind of chosen for me already that Taiwan would be my preference for the program. But besides that, I have always wanted to spend more time in Taiwan. I travel to India frequently, and usually there is a stop in Taipei, so I have spent 12 hours here before, only seeing the tourist sights. It is not enough time to experience anything. I was very excited that I applied for the program as it really allowed me to experience the culture and lifestyle of Taiwan.  Having the luxury of spending 8 weeks here really encourages us to not be tourists, but to immerse ourselves in what Taiwan really is.  I am very grateful to have that opportunity.

(2) From SIT program and your host professor, what did you learn?

From SIT specifically, I learned a lot about Taiwan. First, most of the people are really friendly. I really wasn’t expected that. I think that it is the most positive experience I’ve ever had in another country.  People don’t treat you like an outsider; they are welcoming and extremely hospitable. Everyone is really nice to me, very talkative and helpful. As far as from my host, as far as scientifically and technically, I learned a lot of surgical skills. I have past experiences in rodent models but here I had an opportunity to learn larger animals, doing basic surgical skills things like suturing which I have never really done, you know. That was a good experience. I also learned that the scientific atmosphere here is very positive. Collaboration between labs is very natural and others are very happy to help in any way they can. This is more of a rarity in the US.

(3) What do you think about SIT program, is there anything we can improve?

I mean, I think SIT has been great. It is far beyond what I was expected. My expectation was that there is one-week of orientation, which would be kind of boring, not fun and they just let you go and SIT never contacts you again. That’s definitely not the case. My SIT mentor, Wendy, maintained contact throughout the 8 weeks. We spoke by phone a couple of times.  I was also invited multiple times by SIT staff and EAPSI fellows to hang out in Taipei throughout the 8 weeks. And the orientation was great. The whole week the staff really takes good care of us. They showed us quite a few things and interacted with us every step of the way. There was no dumb moment. You never once get bored. Always….. It is really nice. As far as feedback, maybe longer? I know the EAPSI program in Japan and/or Korea is ten weeks, so that is something worth considering. I actually am spending an extra two weeks here so I can finish my project.

(4) Except for the length of the program, what can we improve for this program.

I remembered that during the orientation week, they asked us all this multiple times. I know that one of my lab mates did the program several years ago and couple of things she complained about you guys resolved really well. I have no complaints. I cannot think of anything really. You guys really are amazing.

(5) Do you want to join this program for the second time?

Absolutely. If I could, I absolutely would. Yeah! Definitely. Even working in the lab I think my expectations were not as high, but I’ve come to realize that my host made every option available to me. If I ask good questions, they are like, good you can do this and here it is. I don’t ever think they said no to any of my proposed experiments. Even collaboration within the lab, they are happy to help. It is so unique and great!

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