My experience as an Erasmus+ intern at Newcastle University, by Alice Palioura

Embarking on an Erasmus+ journey is not an easy decision to make, but definitely a decision worth making. I cannot describe these four months in such a short text, but I will try my best to convey a sense of what I gained from my Erasmus+ experience at Newcastle University Population Health Sciences Institute.

The benefits that an exchange program has to offer are well known in an increasingly globalized world: gaining intercultural understanding and international links, developing both your academic and personal abilities, seeing new places. For me, it was the chance to explore potential career paths and engage in high quality research. Not surprisingly, my placement had a meaningful impact on my thoughts for my future steps.

At a #HackingChildhood interdisciplinary event where we explored the future of tech innovation in children’s lives

Being an intern at the Population Health Sciences Institute gave me the chance to get familiar with the significance of interdisciplinary work, alongside with developing academic and interpersonal skills. I was able to participate in planning for a novel study, the WEARable pilot study, led by Drs Chris Thornton and Niina Kolehmainen. The study focuses on children under three years old, an under-researched group in much of health and care. The study attempts to identify acceptable methods to objectively measure children’s everyday behaviors by utilizing wearable sensors and ethnography. 

My key contribution was to the WEARable project

I gained a first-hand perspective on developing a study protocol, synthesizing knowledge from different disciplines, paying attention to detail, self-monitoring my progress and much more. I was also lucky enough to participate in a scoping review, attend seminars and workshops that broadened my horizons, and organize a donation for a local charity on behalf of the research team.

However, nothing ever comes without some difficulties. At first, I had a hard time adjusting in a new setting, very different to what I was used to. Having spent half of my degree in front of a screen because of the pandemic and being the most inexperienced amongst the team members, I thought that I would not be adequate enough to respond to some tasks. At the same time, another challenge for me was that my background in psychology was far from some of the project’s aspects related to technology or physiology.

At the NIHR Innovation Observatory, on my last day

In spite of those hurdles, it is needless to say that my supervisors, Niina and Bronia Arnott, as well as the WEARable team, always provided me with the best available learning opportunities while also valuing my opinion, being willing to help me and making me feel welcome.

My time at Newcastle will surely be counted as an integral part of my academic journey and will be greatly treasured for many years to come.

Alice Palioura is a psychology student at University of Athens, Greece. More from Alice on Twitter @alicepalioura

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