Posted by: jackterrett | February 23, 2010

An Uncharacteristic Adventure

At the beginning of my Junior year, somewhere around August/September 2009, I made the decision to take the following Spring semester entirely off from Middlebury College.  For the past two years, I had planned to study abroad at the Middlebury School in Paris for the duration of Spring 2010.  This decision was based on my sole desire to perfect my French through a program of total immersion.  Unfortunately, I came to learn that the opportunity to take science courses (notably Chemistry) would be very small, if not non-existent, at the various Middlebury-affiliated Universities in Paris.  Thanks to the fortune of numerous high school AP credits (I’d like to say foresight, but it wasn’t really) and an early enough start on my major, I would be able to get my degree in Chemistry from Middlebury in 3.5 years rather than 4 (7 semesters instead of 8).  Given this flexibility (and the obvious added incentive of saving $25,000), I planned to spend the Spring pursuing an Internship, rather than being enrolled at Middlebury.

For 11 weeks, from 1st March thru 14th May, I will be working at Heptares Therapeutics, a biotech company located in Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire, UK.  In addition to gaining work experience, I hoped this Spring would provide me with a chance to gain a little ‘life experience’ too.  I wanted to live away from home for an extended period of time, preferably somewhere in Europe, in order to gain a fresh perspective on life (it sounds cliché, I know, but true nonetheless).  These three months I will not only learn more about the chemical/biotech industry, but learn how to live independently – cook my own meals (no dining halls or parents, alas!), live self-sufficiently on my own salary, and adapt to a somewhat foreign society in which I enter as a total stranger.

Since 2003, I haven’t spent more than 3 weeks in the UK at one time.  I’ll be there for 3 months.  In a way, this is a journey back to my homeland – one that has undoubtedly changed and evolved since I left.  Not only that, but I’ve changed and assimilated to the culture and lifestyle of the United States as well.  This Spring, I will get the chance to revisit the place I’ve proudly called “home” for the past six years and observe and experience it firsthand.  What’s changed?  What’s resolutely remained the same?  Am I perceived as an American or a Brit?  I’m sure that while I embrace that which I’ve sorely missed for the past six years, I’ll also yearn for what I’ve just left behind.  This will be a way for me to know where I consider home to be.  And perhaps more importantly, where I feel I belong for the rest of my life.

Probably above all though, this experience will hopefully give me a greater respect for the two pillars of my life that I often take for granted – college and home, friends and family – and will return with an increased sense of appreciation and excitement.  And who knows, maybe I’ll even get a sense of the career I want to pursue post-Middlebury.  It’s an adventure, a risk.  This is something I’ve never done before.  I’m nervous, sure, but exhilarated too!


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