Meet Jessica and Nhi
We chatted with DIS Stockholm students Jessica, Syracuse University, and Nhi, Colby College, to get a better idea of what it’s like conducting guided research and working in a DIS lab space. Both of them are studying psychology and neuroscience at their respective institutions, and they found DIS was the perfect fit for their ambitions – to study abroad in a location where they found a variety of interesting courses, including ones related to their major, and practice a new language. Find out how this experience has enhanced their academics and life abroad.
DIS: Hi Jessica and Nhi! Can you tell us more about why you chose to take the Affective Neuroscience Core Course and Lab?
Nhi: I was drawn to these courses because I wanted to explore the connection between our neural pathways and how emotions are expressed and regulated. I was also interested in learning about the different brain imaging techniques and getting the chance to work with eye-tracking technology.
Jessica: Given that I’m majoring in psychology and neuroscience, I was really excited to see a neuroscience class focused on a typically psychology-heavy field of affective studies. I knew I wanted to take classes relevant to my majors while abroad, so being able to take this one was a perfect match.
DIS: What specific topics are you delving into for these courses?
Nhi: We discuss the specific brain regions that are associated with emotions, how these emotions are elicited, expressed and regulated, and the differences between age, gender, and various cultural aspects.
Jessica: We study the theories, triggers, and implications of emotion in the human brain. We learn both anatomically based material and lots of applicable topics like the emotional influence of music and films.
DIS: What goes on in the lab and what do you like about working there?
Nhi: For the lab portion of the course, we designed a research study aimed to find the connection between disgust and attention within the context of COVID-19 and collected data using eye-trackers.
Jessica: Within the first weeks of lab, Nhi and I were tasked with designing research that we would present at the end of the semester. We’ve since created our research question, designed and programmed the study, recruited participants, and analyzed the data. We’re finally putting together the manuscript, so it is really rewarding to see our work come together. I think that is my favorite part about our lab. It is interesting to see how weeks of work can come together with insightful conclusions. It is also fun to parse out what information is useful or not, what conclusions are significant, and analyze how said conclusions can be applied to broader concepts. I have been able to learn so many new things through this lab course, especially since we get to work with eye-tracking technology that I find really fascinating.
DIS: What is your relationship to the faculty who teach your Affective Neuroscience courses?
Nhi: Because there are only the two of us in the course, Jess and I receive more individualized help and the lesson plans are focused on what we are interested in or confused about. Elodie and Josh are both very supportive and create a fun learning environment.
Jessica: Our semester was a little different because we had two professors with their own specialties. Elodie specializes in neuroscience, so in the beginning of the course we had lots of new material about anatomy and brain systems. After she went on maternity leave, Josh took over. He specializes in childhood developmental psychology and conducts research through Uppsala University. We visited the Uppsala Baby Lab, got MRIs through Karolinska Institutet, and visited the Uppsala University Department of Game Design while in Gotland. We have been so lucky to form close bonds with these professors and have so much mentorship as we navigate these new academic experiences.
DIS: How does the DIS Stockholm experience differ from your home institution?
Nhi: DIS Stockholm enables me to explore courses that are not available at my home institution in an environment that fosters creativity and cultural integration. I love being able to attend class in the traditional classroom setting and integrate it with the Field Studies we have throughout the semester.
Jessica: Coming from a relatively larger university, DIS Stockholm has felt like an entirely different experience. My largest class has 10 students and I know all of my professors personally. It is a much more inviting and personalized academic experience compared to my typical large lectures and seminars. I love that I have gotten to know every student and feel lucky to get to know so many intelligent and interesting people.
DIS: Could you see yourself continuing your lab related research back at your home institution or after your undergraduate studies?
Nhi: Although it would be interesting to continue my lab related research at my home institution, we do not have the same technology and facilities available for me to do so. I would like to potentially continue with similar research but perhaps with a more clinical psychology focus, for example, how emotions regulation affects mood disorders.
Jessica: Honestly, I am not too sure if I will stay in the affective branch of psychology or not. I find it fascinating, but I work for an ADHD lab in Syracuse that I love as well. My experiences here have taught me a lot about research and academia, so I look forward to applying that to different fields of neuroscience and psychology.
DIS: Are there other courses that you’re really enjoying at DIS Stockholm?
Nhi: Another course I really enjoy at DIS Stockholm is my Human Trafficking and the Sex Trade class where we talk about the different protocols in place for human trafficking and the theories related to this clandestine crime.
Jessica: Yes! I love my Psychology of Political Behavior class. My professor is wonderful and pushes us to think critically about the literature we read. He really knows how to combine psychology, politics, economics, and history. Being someone that has a strong psychology background, I really appreciate the interdisciplinary approach he takes to complex issues and how we can go about analyzing them.
DIS: What extra-curricular activities have you done while in Sweden?
Nhi: I enjoy walking around Stockholm, getting fika with friends, thrift shopping, trying Swedish food and snacks (fermented herring and licorice candies are a must try!), and going to the open museums and cathedrals around the city. Because Stockholm is such a well-preserved city, it is really fun to look at the architecture and how different it is compared to back home.
Jessica: DIS arranges great trips for students, so I am really looking forward to going kayaking in a week. I have been able to go ice skating on the archipelago as well. Our Core Course offered lots of new experiences, so Nhi and I have been dogsledding in Umeå and horseback riding in Gotland. It is definitely too hard to pick which one was my favorite!
DIS: What is still on your to do list?
Nhi: I would like to see the cherry blossoms in Kungsträdgården, visit the archipelago, and go to more museums!
Jessica: Before I leave, I really want to go camping. DIS has tents we can loan, so I plan on rounding up some friends to go to a nature reserve and have a camping weekend. I also want to visit the island Sandhamn in the archipelago, but I am waiting for a day with slightly warmer weather!
DIS: Did you receive any good advice about study abroad that you’d like to share now that you are abroad?
Jessica: I think the best advice I could give to someone studying abroad is to say yes to everything you can. Some of my best memories are from getting out of my comfort zone and doing something spontaneous.
DIS: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Nhi: I just want to say thank you to everyone at DIS who has made my study abroad experience possible despite the state of the world right now. This has been a very valuable experience and an unforgettable semester!