I Survived getting rejected (and you can too)

Photo depicts a female-presenting Asian person with black glasses and long light hair staring at their laptop screen biting a pencil looking frustrated.
Woman looking at laptop screen and biting pencil in frustration

When I finally got rejected from the international internship in Portugal I applied to, I was crushed. I had worked so hard on the application, done practice interviews, and had relevant work experience. I felt that surely I would at least get an interview, and probably be welcomed into the program with open arms. I had chatted with someone else who did the same program and loved it, and I imagined myself strolling the glorious halls of the cutting-edge research facility I would work in. But then the notification date came and passed. “Oh well,” I thought, “I applied to some High Meadows Environmental Institute (HMEI) internships in cool places, surely one of those would work out!” Nope. With the summer break growing ever nearer, it seemed I was officially out of luck. It felt like all of my friends had these grand plans in places around the globe I never even imagined traveling, but I was stuck.

I had one last idea in my back pocket. When I started as a first-year, I had just spent my gap year researching Parkinson’s Disease, so I saw my entry into Princeton as my chance to continue research, but in something new, and perhaps even zany. I ended up taking EEB 211 and loved it, so I looked into Ecology and Evolutionary Biology research. I was drawn to the Kocher Lab’s research on bees in particular, partly for their focus on evolution and genetics, but mostly because bees are cool! I decided to go out on a limb and contact Professor Sarah Kocher about her lab and their work. She was very supportive and welcomed me to lab meetings where I started to get familiar with everyone’s projects and even do a bit of data analysis. 

I thought back to the ReMatch dinners I had been to earlier in the year and wondered if there was a way I could join in on that. I found out that the Office of Undergraduate Research Student Initiated Internship Program gives grants to students just like me (and you!) who plan a summer research project with a lab. This ended up being perfect, I had just enough time before the April 3 deadline to work things out with the lab and apply.

I ended up spending nine weeks in Princeton studying bumblebees in which I got to try something new and exist in Princeton without homework! The grant had a stipend that went to housing and food as well as a separate bit of money to fund my research project. There was a surprising amount of life on campus, and I enjoyed getting to know my fellow OURSIP/ReMatch members as well as the members of the lab. Perhaps my experience wasn’t as far from campus as I originally planned, but it was an amazing way to sample research in a field I had never experienced and many people have never even heard of. The OUR office internships provide flexibility that very few other opportunities provide, and an added benefit for first- and second-year students to get a head start on independent work. Through my application process, I learned that rejection, even a lot of it in rapid succession, is far from the end of the world.

Virginia Cobbs, Natural Sciences Correspondent