Santiago Center Stories: A Scientist Connecting International Students

September 07, 2020

Santiago Center intern Conchi Izquierdo is a postdoctoral researcher and scientist at Columbia University Irving Medical Center (CUIMC), working in the areas of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. She is originally from Spain, where she got her PhD in biochemistry, molecular biology, and biomedicine.

Q: What does your internship with the Columbia Global Center in Santiago entail?

A: My internship is to develop strategies for students’ opportunities. At the beginning, it was focusing on the Santiago Center. We are trying to create virtual communities of regional students. So, I was focused on Argentina, Colombia, Chile, Peru, and Ecuador, with students who are living there or are from there. Also, we are working between the different global centers, working together to create a network between communities.

Q: What have you learned?

A: I’ve learned a lot because my background is in science. When looking for the internship, I was looking to have international relationships, something with diplomacy skills and communication skills, more management. I already have skills for developing science projects, but not in other areas. It was a really great opportunity to work with the Columbia Global Centers and the people working there, to extend my knowledge and learn from all the things they are offering me.

Q: What is it like being a virtual intern compared to a traditional internship?

A: I haven’t done many regular internships. For me, it was a really good opportunity because right now I am already working with Columbia in New York, so now I get to meet people in Chile and coordinate with people around the world. It’s really cool and a really great opportunity to have virtual internships to communicate from wherever you are and work from wherever you want. For me, this is the most important thing.

Q: Do you have any tips for how to deal with being on laptop all day?

A: At the beginning, it was very hard for me because all the Zoom seminars and meetings increased the time I spent looking at a screen. So, I think it is really important to create a schedule and combine things you are doing in the computer with things you are not using a screen for. For example, I like painting or reading a book to get away from the screen. Then when you are on Zoom, take advantage of the sessions and the opportunities you are offered.

Q: You mentioned reading, do you have any book recommendations?

A: I read all kind of books, let me see. For example, I really like Haruki Murakami. He’s a Japanese writer. There’s a book called Dance, Dance, Dance. For me, it is interesting because of the peculiar way that he wrote it. I also read a few months ago Blindness from Jose Saramago, a Portuguese writer. It’s really cool how he wrote this story; it is very crazy. With these days, it’s interesting to read books like that.

Q: Favorite place to be in New York?

A: I’m from Madrid, the capital of Spain. It’s like New York in that it is a big city, that you have a lot of plans to do and things to explore. I really like New York for these things. I miss it now that it is closed. But I still like just being out on the streets and walking around. If I had to pick a place, there’s a small park called Elizabeth Street Garden. I really like it, because it is small and it is not so touristy. It is quiet and nice.

Q: Another fun question, if you could go anywhere in the world, where would you like to travel?

A: I like that question, because I love traveling. Right now, we can’t go out of the United States, but if I could, I would go to Australia. It is big, and I don’t think I could choose a small place. It’s a place where you have everything, there is a lot of stuff to do. I would like to go there.

Q: Anything else you would like to add?

A: This has been a really great opportunity for me, I really enjoyed doing this internship. I really loved exploring different things and seeing different perspectives and cultures.