I have been back in the states for about 2 months now, and am dearly missing the gritty, grey, wonderful Berlin. As I have been reflecting on all of the late night döners, twinkling lights of Potsdamer Platz, the coziness of a small cafe in Prenzlauerberg, and awkward silences to German questions, I have also realized how much I have learned doing undergraduate research.
Right now I am finishing up some translations and am choosing which collections I want to focus on for my paper. I will also start preparing for my presentation at Undergraduate Research & Artistry Day and the National Conference on Undergraduate Research in Lexington, Kentucky. It’s crazy to think I started this program in 2012 as a sophomore with a limited understanding of research, and am now in my second year with a strong project and research experience in a foreign country. Conducting faculty mentored, original research has given me the confidence, skill, and motivation to push boundaries and explore what I am passionate about.
If there are three things I have learned from undergraduate research, its:
1. Faculty mentoring is one of the best experiences an undergrad can have
Working with my faculty mentor for 2 years has been unbelievably rewarding. Having guidance from an expert in my field has influenced my development as a student, researcher, and historian. I walked into my mentor’s office as a freshman not really knowing what kind of research I wanted to pursue, but she has dedicated her time to guide my academic and professional development. This has impacted my own pursuit of a PhD, in hope that I will also impact a motivated student.
2. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes
Research involves so many twists, turns, and challenges I never expected. But that’s the fun part. Running into barriers is what taught me to persevere, problem solve, and consider things from different points of view.
2. Find your passion and run with it
I have loved history for a long time. I recall the moment that sparked this interest – when I first read the Diary of Anne Frank at 9 years old. Researching my historical interest was not something I imagined doing as an undergraduate, let alone traveling to Germany to handle actual photographs and consult real archivists. But, undergraduate research programs at NIU gave me this platform to truly explore what I love about my field and develop the skills necessary to pursue this. Find what you love, what you’re curious about, and take the time to explore it.