It’s been more than 2 years since I left London after a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ opportunity, that I never regretted.
When I was thinking about ‘what do I want to do with my life’ and looking for a degree that would suit me and would turn out to be my dream job, I never thought I would have an opportunity that would help me in lots of ways.
Here in Belgium at the colleges / universities they do lots of promotion to motivate their students to go international. Studying abroad has always been very appealing to me. The degree that I decided to do (Biomedical Laboratory Technology) was willing to give students the chance to go abroad in their final year for their traineeship/internship. But they didn’t let just anyone go, you had to work hard, be able to speak English of course, and motivation was an important factor. My parents were a bit ‘shocked’ that I wanted to do that, ’cause I’m the quiet one of their daughters. But they did support me and they let me make my own decisions. And that decision has been one of my best decisions so far!
So, when it was finally time to officially apply, I applied for an internship in London (UK) at the Barts Cancer Institute. And did I have the time of my life!!
I was part of an excellent research team and I learned a lot. My thesis was about ‘The impact of p110delta on the cancer microenvironment’. I became ‘best friends’ with ‘Lewis Lung Cancer cells’ and ‘breast cancer cells’. I really learned a lot!! Cancer research became one of my passions. Very interesting topic and I loved doing the work I was doing. And that’s what it’s all about. Loving what you do! They were very pleased with my work, I got excellent grades and it was a dream come true. I was and still am proud of myself. It’s something that no one can take away from me. If I would get the opportunity to go back and join a team like the one in London, I would immediately leave Belgium and move.
I was there for about 4 months, so I did get the chance to get to know London better in another way. I totally fell in love with London, it’s my second home. The people are extremely friendly, the parks are beautiful, the architecture, the history,… Lots and lots of things to appreciate about London. Every weekend I visited a place in London that you wouldn’t think of visiting when you’re going on citytrip to London. So I did lots of sightseeing in London. And I still didn’t see everything.
It was of course a bit difficult in the beginning, being away from home. But I did pretty well. However I did celebrate my 21st birthday in London without my parents. That was a bit ‘sad’, not sure if ‘sad’ is the right word. 21 is quite important in Belgium. But I did celebrate. I went to the BAFTA awards and I had lots of fun. Seeing lots of celebrities and being part of something that’s quite important for the people in London or the UK in general.
I really got to know myself better and I changed. I started to realise what’s important and I did set up new goals.
I already fulfilled one of my goals: working in cancer research or work involving research, which is what I’m doing now. I’m still going back regularly to London, visiting my friends overthere, my landlord and just ‘seeing’ London makes me look back at an unforgettable period of my life.
If you ever get a chance like that, I would say: ‘Don’t hesistate. If you don’t do it, you’re gonna regret it for the rest of your life. Or you will be wondering ‘What if…’ And I’ve never been a big fan of the ‘what if’ questions.