TRONDBUSS provides new science-based study abroad experience
Studying abroad can provide students with a unique cultural and educational experience, and Patrice Hamel, an associate professor in the Department of Molecular Genetics, knows firsthand how studying abroad can impact a student and his or her worldview. Having studied and worked abroad on multiple occasions, Hamel saw a need for science-based international experiences for students.
Using connections at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) — including Dr. Kristin Solum Steinsbekk in NTNU's Department of Biomedical Laboratory Science — Hamel established TRONDBUSS, a bilateral U.S.-Norway international education initiative between the Molecular Genetics department and NTNU in Trondheim, Norway. TRONDBUSS (for TRONDheim-ColumBUS and BUSS for bus in Norwegian) allows students from NTNU and Ohio State to travel between the institutions through different courses and lab assignments.
“I think it really gives another dimension if you go away from your insular world and see how things are done in a different country,” Hamel said. “You can always travel and have fun, but if you can combine being abroad and being exposed to different cultures, and then also use that time to build your career, your education — that's the best.”
Since 2013, 10 students from NTNU have come to Ohio State to gain valuable research experience in a laboratory setting from the Departments of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology. Over the course of three months, students are exposed to research and lab work, and are able to earn academic credit toward their degrees at their home institution.
Similarly, Ohio State students are able to earn academic credit through MoleGen 5797: Introduction to Biomedical Laboratory Sciences. In May 2017, 10 students were selected through a rigorous application process to travel to Norway for the inaugural study abroad experience. Through the course, students learned laboratory safety and handling practices, compared different methods of data quantification and explored the use of genome sequencing in clinical diagnosis via a tutorial taught by staff at St. Olavs Hospital at the NTNU genome core facility.
Fourth-year biology major Avanti Vaidya was one of the students on the trip and said that the coursework and lab settings greatly enhanced her educational experience, especially when it came to the work relating to the medical field.
“It was fascinating to learn to do tests that we otherwise take for granted or don't give a second thought,” Vaidya said. “We also had a portion on bioethics, which was my favorite part and something that I firmly believe everyone going into the health field should learn about. It was extremely eye-opening to just try and understand so many of the complexities to medical genetics that I'd never had to consider before.”
TRONDBUSS is sponsored in part by grants from the Norwegian Centre for International Cooperation in Education and the College of Arts and Sciences. Hamel is grateful for the support from ASC and to have the opportunity to provide students with some financial aid to cover trip expenses.
“I wanted to have a way of sponsoring the students because it's expensive ... it restricts the population who can have access to that experience,” Hamel said. “The College of Arts and Sciences has been very generous and very receptive, and is very happy with this experience.”
Vaidya said her TRONDBUSS experience helped her to become a more well-rounded and open-minded individual. She also believes that opportunities like TRONDBUSS are incredibly important for students to learn and foster an increasingly interconnected world.
“I think every single person should always strive to be a global citizen and studying abroad — giving students the opportunity to truly immerse themselves in another culture as a local — is absolutely invaluable,” Vaidya said. “It does a lot to put your own life and experiences into perspective, and this experience is one that I am immeasurably thankful for.”
A new group of Ohio State students will travel to Norway in May 2018 as part of TRONDBUSS and learn for themselves how influential a study abroad experience can be. While the current activities will continue to be offered, TRONDBUSS is now expanding with the creation of credit equivalencies for OSU and NTNU students via Curriculum enrichment at both Institutions
Hannah Smith, fourth-year journalism major