Testimony Klaas Vandendriessche (2018-2019)

Hello dear reader. I will start with shortly introducing myself. My name is Klaas Vandendriessche, a bioinformatics student at Howest. I have done my traineeship at EMBL-EBI, a famous international bioinformatics company, located near Cambridge in the United Kingdom. Below you can find some information about my experiences during my traineeship, both in and outside my workplace. First a brief introduction of the United Kingdom and of course the student city of Cambridge. The UK is known for many things. From London’s Big Ben to the Queen, from driving on the left side of the road to using the pound as currency. Even their lack of cooking skills is a typical aspect of the average Brit. However, I will not expand on the capital London, but on the city of Cambridge, located at the river Cam (hence the name). This city is not so far away from London (one hour by train). It is obvious that a lot of students are lodged there. The centre has a lot of parcs and university campuses. The narrow streets, the ancient buildings and museums, the many cosy places and pubs create a nice sphere. As a Belgian you can compare it with Gent. However, Cambridge has still a lot more historical buildings. The EMBL-EBI buildings are located on the Wellcome Genome Campus near Hinxton, a small village in the neighbourhood of Cambridge. The campus is modern with a lot of green areas and parks, where you can take a walk during lunch break. Getting to the company is easy, since the campus organises free buses from and towards Cambridge and its surrounding areas. The total amount of people that work on the campus is around 2600 employees, a mixture of about 70 nationalities. If you come to work here, you will certainly meet colleagues from all over the world. The campus also has several facilities such as restaurants, coffee bars, a gym and a fitness. The average working day for an employee at EMBL-EBI is from 9:00 am until 5:30 pm. My project was writing Python scripts for the creation of pseudochromosomes of rodent species. There is a large amount of study groups at EMBL-EBI that offer a wide variety of tasks, from creating and following genome pipelines to database maintenance and writing scripts. The nine colleagues in my office were all great people with various international backgrounds (Chinese, Indian, Spanish, Finish, Ukrainian, British). 4 Now I am going to give you some information about the financial aspect of my traineeship. To partially sponsor my trip, I received an Erasmus grant. I have travelled to Cambridge by train. I followed the following journey: train Kortrijk – Lille Flanders (10 euros), Eurostar from Lille Europe to London St-Pancras. Direct train from London Kings Cross (located next to St-Pancras station) to Cambridge (17 pounds). The Eurostar tickets (including return) were around 150 euros. However, if you avoid the peak travel hours and book early, you can reduce this amount to around 100 euros. A dayrider ticket (one day unlimited bus travel around Cambridge) costs around 4,50 pounds. I would recommend to avoid a bus subscription, because this is really expensive and not worth paying for, since you most likely will only take the Stagecoach buses during the weekend. My accommodation was located in a landlord’s house in Arbury, a district north of the city centre. I found my accommodation by using the website of the university of Cambridge. If you are going to follow a traineeship at EBML-EBI, the company sends to you a list with all links to websites where you can find all necessary accommodation data. The monthly rent for my room was 456 pounds, about 550 euros per month. Housing in the UK is expensive! However, lodging in Cambridge is much cheaper than, for example, hiring a room in London. Each day I lunched at the campus of EMBL-EBI. The daily costs for lunch are around 4-6 pounds. During the weekends the price highly varied depending on the place where I went to take a meal. My average costs of living, campus lunches not included, were around 15-20 pounds per week. Cambridge offers plenty of opportunities for cultural activities, especially if you are interested in history and science. There are a lot of museums with free entry in and around Cambridge. Here is a list of the ones that I have visited (ranked from the most interesting museum to the less interesting ones): 1) Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology 2) Fitzwilliam Museum 3) Museum of Zoology 4) Museum of Cambridge (not free) 5) Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences In the centre of the city there are many pubs and cosy eating places. When it is good weather and if you have some free time, I strongly recommend to take a walk in the botanic gardens of Cambridge. You can find there all kinds of plants, beautiful flowers 5 and sweet-smelling herbs from all over the world. The several beautiful parks in Cambridge are also places where you can stroll and enjoy nature. I have also visited the Duxford airfield to spectate one of their many annual Air Shows. It really was a spectacular event! The costs for my ticket and the snacks that I purchased on the site were in total around 50 pounds. Of course the city of London is also a must to do! You can make a guided vessel tour on the Thames and admire the many beautiful historical buildings such as the Tower Bridge, The British Parliament, the Big Ben clock tower, etc. The price for this one-day trip was around 70 pounds. To conclude, I can say that I definitely enjoyed my stay in Cambridge and working at EMBL-EBI. I would recommend the experience to everyone who is still hesitating to go on an international traineeship. After this traineeship, I felt that I had become much more independent. My view on the world has also broadened a lot by coming in contact with so many different people and cultures. 

Link to blog: https://klaasvandendriessc.wixsite.com/camblog