Need help choosing a MISTI program? by MISTI Program
MIT-Germany alum Nina Sinatra advises incoming interns to keep an open mind
Class of 2012
Materials Science & Engineering
internship with Max Planck Institute
MIT-Germany Program 2011
Coming from an Italian family and speaking fluent Spanish, I have often been asked why I chose MISTI Germany over other country programs. While I did consider the Spain and Mexico programs at first, I ended up choosing Germany because there are many more internship opportunities there in my major – materials engineering – than in any other MISTI program. I encourage all students who are considering MISTI to think of the program both in terms of finding an interesting and useful internship, and living in a place in which you are comfortable. Certain countries have more favorable or more diverse job opportunities in a given field; understanding and seeking out your niche abroad begins with identifying these "target spots" for your major.
I discourage underclassmen from choosing internships based only upon the places that look most fun to live in – while being happy in your location is a valid and important concern, it is equally critical to enjoy the work that you are doing. In my case, I found a good match in a Max Planck Institute in a moderately-sized city (Mainz) near Frankfurt. I was looking for a lively, yet typically German, location with research involving polymer chemistry. I enjoyed the best of a friendly, smaller-town environment while being able to explore the cosmopolitan atmosphere of large cities (and exciting counties) nearby. I did not find much difficulty in integrating into a German community; the vast majority of people that I met were eager to hear about my work and what had brought me to Germany. I painted my face in the "rot schwartz, and günstig" of the German flag, cheered for the local soccer team, enjoyed delicious local food, and met many new friends – with whom I often had excellent conversations and outings.
I appreciated the environment of my workplace as well; while I have worked in several university and military laboratories, I had never been involved in a project at a national research institute. The atmosphere – for me – was not terribly unusual, but I enjoyed the more balanced work/fun balance in the lab's culture and the brisk, yet moderated, pace of the project.
In a nutshell, my advice to future MISTI students is this — ask yourself candidly what kind of work environment you see yourself being happy and productive in, and the type of job that you are interested in doing. Keep an open mind (you may surprise yourself!) and venture out of your comfort zone, and you will be guaranteed to have a rewarding and memorable summer.