It’s been a long and short 10 weeks at the same time. 10 weeks is really a long time to be spending the summer, and it’s surprising to think that’s it’s almost over.
What did I learn from this program?
I learned that it’s okay to feel like an impostor (thanks, Birdie). In fact, I learned that a lot of other people feel that, even though I thought that they were the people who had everything together. I really wanted to come to this REU in particular because I figured that whatever engineering knowledge I needed to know for the project, I would learn along the way. I belonged here as much as everyone else because I was just learning. That was a brave step, but I’m glad I took it.
That brings me to my next point. I keep learning this over and over, but I learned again that I’m a work in progress. Often, before I have anything to show the group, I want it to be polished and refined. I don’t want to tell them that I haven’t fully thought through a concept. I learned that an important part of research ideation is finding out those “unrefined ideas” and exploring them with others, instead of choosing between to perfectly packaged ideas. I learned that it’s okay to be a work in progress.
I also learned that grad school is a real thing. Before coming here, I often thought of it as some abstract idea, when people in my school referred to going to “grad school”. I didn’t really know what it meant until I learned about it from the grad students at VRAC, by the grad school panel or just chatting with them in the lab. Also, participating in the REU projects was great experience for preparing us for grad school. I finally understand that research takes a long time. We spent 10 weeks here and it doesn’t feel as if we scratched the surface on perspective taking in spatial cognition. There’s much to learn and explore, and that’s why I’m happy about continuing our project.
Networking and having mentors is important. I am grateful for all the support I received from the staff of the REU. They’re really nice people who have lived through grad school and want to see you succeed, so it only makes sense to get support from them. I also met a PhD who’s in ID, and I networked with her and learned so much about what I can do in ID research. It helps to reach out the people and meet as many people who can help you in your professional development.
Grad school, networking, and research is important. But remember to force yourself out of the apartment once in a while. Go out with your mentors and friends and have a nice time hiking or exploring the mall in Ames. I don’t think my summer would have been as rewarding if I didn’t invest my time in friends as well.
That’s probably a small section of what I learned in this program, but it’s knowledge I want to impart with you all, whether you’re a current intern or a future one. I had a great time, and if you make the most out this program, I’m sure you will enjoy it too.