iSURF week 5: Food & Entertainment

Last week, I blogged about striking a meaningful balance between work and play during the summer. But summer with too much balance isn’t always a good thing. The ideal balance is a fluctuating one. Summer sort of lends itself to chaos anyways, and this week has teetered over to the stereotypical aspects of summer: movies and food.

Who am I kidding? Food is my most prominent thought at least every 30 minutes. (Like the majority of students, I’m on the full meal plan at school. Although a lot of students rag on the dining hall aka HUDS for their cafeteria style food, I appreciate how I always have access to food/snacks despite having specific meal times – cough, cough, Yale doesn’t have this flexibility). What I like most about food is its intense share-ability. Food tends to bring great people together for a fantastic reason and it’s so versatile! Theme of the week? Thai food.


This summer, I’m working on clinical trials dealing with maternal health and nutrition. It’s my first time pursuing clinical research and my first time examining matters in iron/vitamin A diets in terms of pregnancy and malaria endemic regions. I’m really cherishing my split time between a lab and the hospital environment and I have Harvard’s Global Health Institute to thank for it. Through my Global Health and Health Policy (GHHP) secondary (Harvard College’s fancy synonym for a minor), I discovered the international summer undergraduate research fellowship (iSURF) program which links students to summer internships abroad. The program has different sites all over the world and sends at least two students per site – a great use of the buddy system!

During the fall semester of my junior year, I enrolled in a Molecular & Cellular Biology (MCB) class about Neuroperception and Decision Making. Hands down, one of my favorite classes of my entire life. Instead of the traditional three hour final exam, we had a final project to create a research proposal. I became interested in the realm of decision making between equivalent options and the construction of preferences. Stretching my ideas, I wanted to apply preferences and favoritism to food so by the time my junior fall semester ended, I was determined to get my hands dirty with nutrition research.

Thus, during my junior spring semester, the iSURF program evolved into my ideal summer internship. They had four sites abroad that centered around nutrition: Barbados, Brazil, India, and Tanzania. Applying to iSURF was analogous to applying to colleges – there was a common application which is sent to the different sites. From there, students are interviewed by the program coordinators and matched with projects as well as the postdocs and professors.

I was matched to the studies in Tanzania and very much looked forward (with nervous excitement!) to my first time on the African continent. My program partner, Leanna, had previously studied in both Ghana and Kenya, but she still looked forward to her third return to Africa and first trip to Tanzania. Although Leanna and I are both members of the Class of 2014 (woot!), our undergraduate paths did not cross until we were both awarded Tanzanian summer internships. We met a handful of times before summer break began and only had about a week and a half to get to know each other in Tanzania because she was sent to a different city about 6 hours away from where we are based. She was gone for a full 2 weeks before she returned to accompany me once again in the big city.

While she was gone, I was fortunate enough to be connected with two Harvard alumni – class of 2008 and class of 2011 – and was introduced to their friends also interning in Tanzania for the summer. By the time Leanna returned to our base city, I presented her with a circle of welcoming friends. It was nice to have a roommate again in my hostel room and we celebrated her return with Thai food!

There’s a locally popular Thai restaurant and my friends may or may not have been aware about their weekly karaoke night. We dined on some (painfully) spicy Thai to warm both our hearts and vocal cords for karaoke. I was with a Harvard alumna who sang a capella with the Angels; needless to say, she brought most of the applause our way during our endeavors to win over every Tanzanian heart with each note we sang.

Tanzania loves Bruno Mars…just the way he is!

I wonder if Tanzania has heard about the Harvard baseball team…

Although ranging widely in age and study interests, the group grooves well together, making every meal fun (with or without karaoke)! I sometimes feel like I’m back at school making dinner plans and such, except we email to coordinate plans instead of texting. The summer interns are starting to get real comfortable with the food – we’re playing it more risky and have stopped questioning the kind of meats served on a stick. Keep your fingers crossed for us?

On the less risky side, we’ve succumbed to our guilty pleasure of movies. There are a few days a week when movie tickets are cheaper and it’s a weekly effort to watch at least one movie. The best part is that 3-D movies cost just as much as 2-D movies – yep, that’s one whole dimension for free! Thus far, the summer movie marathon has consisted of: The Great Gatsby, Star Trek, Man of Steel, The Heat, and The Internship. This is just a list of movies seen in theaters because including the ones I’ve watched on DVD would hit a character limit on this blog for sure.

I’ve had a really chill, lazy-bum week. But you know that saying – it’s always calm before the storm? Totally applies in this situation. Next week, another Dartmouth intern is arriving and will be my co-worker. The principle investigator of the entire study will also be making his way over from Boston so things around the office are about to get super hectic in preparation of the bossman’s arrival. And if we’re still going for the work hard-play hard balance, I’ll be taking off to Zanzibar for a long weekend! Let’s see if the island lives up to its hype…


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  1. lara scott’s avatar

    I can see that you really have balanced way of life. I do believe that “all works, no play” is not really healthy. I can see that you know how to manage your time. That is productive.

    1. Jeanie Nguyen’s avatar

      Thanks for reading and your warm words Lara!

    2. DO NOT CLICK HERE !’s avatar

      Great article and long life to this blog !

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