Erasmus+ Student Jonathon Roberts has come to Seville from the UK with Brighton Third Sector Training. He is taking part in a 3 month internship at Estación Biológica de Doñana as a Research Assistant in the Alonso-Herrera lab. Read our interview with him below to find out all about the first month of his internship.
How does Seville compare to your expectations of what it would be like?
The city’s more opening and welcoming than I expected it to be, especially with pandemic restrictions in place. There’s so much history on every street, and a surprise around every corner, you can spend hours exploring and seeing where your feet take you (and get very lost in the process!)
What did you find easiest about moving to Seville?
I found adjusting to the new daily routine much easier than I thought it would be, quickly catching up to the new meal times and adjusting to the more laid-back way of life than we have in the UK.
What did you find hardest about moving to Seville?
Coming from a very rural home, it’s been difficult adjusting to the hustle and bustle of city life, and just the sheer size of Seville. However, learning to ride a bike while I’ve been here has really opened the city up to me, and I’ve found the best way to deal with the overwhelming amount of “life” going on is to just throw myself right into it.
What has your highlight of the trip been so far?
While it’s been fun to get a new work experience, the best part of the trip has undeniably been getting to explore the local area at weekends. From water parks to hiking trails, seaside escapes to Cádiz and a quick hop over the border into Portugal, Andalucía has something to offer for every occasion.
Tell us a little bit about what you do – which work placement are you on and what is it like?
I’m working at Estación Biológica de Doñana (EBD) as a Research Assistant in the Alonso-Herrera lab, working on a genetics project to understand what causes plants to respond differently to being eaten. It’s very relaxed, and I’m getting plenty of opportunities to shape my own internship and decide what I want to get out of the end of it.
Are you finding your work placement rewarding? If so, why?
It’s very rewarding! Since graduating in 2019, I’ve missed doing “proper science” so it’s great to finally be back in the lab coat, talking to scientists about their ideas and coming up with new ideas of my own. I’m enjoying seeing how a lab functions from the perspective of an employee, rather than a student, and getting to meet so many new and interesting people from all over the world.
What are you most looking forward to doing whilst you’re here?
As a bit of a nature nut, I’m looking forward to leveraging my work contacts to get into Doñana National Park, which sits along the coast south of Huelva (very close to Seville!). It’s one of Spain’s best slices of nature, last stronghold of the enigmatic Iberian lynx and a crucial layover for millions of migrating birds. The centre of the Park is highly protected, and can only be accessed for science and conservation.
How do you think the Erasmus+ programme will benefit you in the future?
From a career perspective, I can see my work at EBD being invaluable, both in terms of the experience and skills gained, and in terms of the connections I’ll be making over the three months I’m there. Additionally, learning Spanish in an environment where it’s actively spoken will come in handy for all the globetrotting I’m now planning (even if it does leave me with a distinct sevillano accent). Ultimately though, I can already tell that this experience has changed my outlook on life, broadened my horizons, and shown me how exciting and rewarding things can be when I push myself into seeking discomfort.
Would you recommend the Erasmus+ programme to others?
Absolutely, while I’m here primarily for career purposes, the other interns in my cohort have come for a wide variety of reasons, and if you’re just looking for a bit of a change it’s definitely a chance you should take. Shoot for the moon, right?
What would be your advice for future interns?
Spend some time doing a bit of research, and make a bucket list of things you want to do beforeyou arrive. Thirteen weeks seems like a long time, but there’s just so much to do in and around Seville that you’re gonna have to prioritise at the end of the day. Unless you decide to come back again later, that is.
In 3 words, can you sum up your time on the programme here in Seville so far?
Rewarding, Exciting, Liberating
It sounds like Jon has had an amazing start to his stay in Seville! Stay tuned to our blog in the coming weeks, as we’ll be hearing more stories from this season’s interns.