By Antrelle D. Clark
As I boarded the Delta flight #249 for my 12-hour flight back to the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, I began to reminisce over all of the memories I made and the people I met. I remember the day I found out that I would be spending the summer in Israel. I was filled with so much excitement until the day got closer, then I started to feel nervous. As a new international student in Israel, I did not know what to expect and my mind was filled with question marks and uncertainty. Fast forward 9 weeks where I now know what bus routes to take to get to where I want to go (i.e., bus 3 for the movies, bus 148 for school/home), what grocery stores I need to go to for specific items (I’ve even become a familiar face to the employees and we would always wave as I pass by), my favorite places to eat at (i.e., Blacks, the bakery), etc.
Left to Right: my last view of my PI’s office and lab, my last location snap in Israel, making my way through the Ben Gurion – Tel Aviv Airport, back in the United States.
The goal of my international trip was to sample ctenophores from the Mediterranean Sea and use microscopy and molecular techniques to compare the amoebae found on the comb plates of Mediterranean ctenophore populations with those found on the comb plates of the Gulf of Mexico ctenophore populations. We developed a plan and the technique is fairly simple, so I went to Israel confident that this would be easy work, especially since gelatinous organisms are most abundant during the hotter months. However, their blooms were weeks behind, causing my research to be at a halt for the majority of my stay in Haifa. Eventually, I was able to hit my research goals and successfully transport my samples back to my home lab (Auburn). Partaking in this collaboration taught me many things. The very first thing the LOREX program showed me was how much preparation goes into planning research trips (many thanks to LOREX). I also learned how to adapt to a new environment, how to cope when experiencing difficulties adjusting, why it is important to have backup plans when things go wrong (i.e., lack of blooms), the importance of team work and participating in interdisciplinary research, why communication is the foundation of successful research, and the importance of building a community no matter where you go (who doesn’t love having friends!!!). Overall, my time as a temporary resident of Israel was one of the most successful, adventurous, and unforgettable times of my life.
While I was in Israel, it took me about a month to fully adjust to the time zone there (8 hours ahead of CST). I encountered this same problem when I got back to the US. Also, being back in the US seemed abnormal which made everything I did here for the first month feel sluggish and surreal. I felt like an international student as I returned to my home institution because I had developed a norm of being on a different continent with different surroundings and views on life. Nevertheless, my family and friends are happy to have me back in reaching distance. I am now back in my home lab where my samples are currently being processed for comparative analysis.
All in all, there is not a day that goes by where I do not think about Israel because I gained a multitude of new insights, new normals/comforts, and a place I now consider my home away from home. My time in Israel will play a vital role in shaping my future endeavors when it comes to international research, collaborative research and testing new waters. I want to extend a huge thank you to ASLO, the LOREX program, the University of Haifa, and my labmates and PIs (both in the US and Israel) for providing me with this opportunity of a lifetime. I look forward to seeing everyone at the ASLO’s Ocean Sciences Meeting in February 2024 where I will be sharing my experience about my first time as an international collaborator in hopes that you will be encouraged to seek out your own collaborative adventures. Until then, may your sense of direction lead you one way: to the ocean or for my limnology folks, to any freshwater body.