I had the privilege of participating in a summer research program at the University of Cadiz. It was a unique and unforgettable experience for me from various perspectives and in the following I have explained why.
During this program, I worked with a research group under the supervision of a faculty member as mentor. My research project was on using machine learning methods for classifying adventitious respiratory sounds. This work is very important as it can be helpful for detection and monitoring chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases, which are one of the major causes of death all over the world, as well as asthma, and imposes financial burden on healthcare system and patients. At current times, such a project finds significant importance as it can directly affect early determination of Covid patients and help curing them. This research project initiated a new area of research for me, from which I learned a lot. The project required using signal processing methods and working with sound files. These methods were completely new to me, and I needed to extend my knowledge about working with such data and deepen my understanding of sound signals. By the end of the program, I (with the help of my research mentor) was able to develop machine learning models with improved predictive capabilities for abnormal breathing sounds. I am glad to mention that we are currently working on a conference paper, and I plan to continue my work on this project and collaboration with the Cadiz research group in the future. In addition to the research work, this experience was a great opportunity for me to expand my professional network, know new researchers, and become familiar with ongoing research works in other areas.
As a part of this program, we attended an intense Spanish course during the first week, which greatly helped me learn the basics of Spanish language and build the foundation of learning the language. This was very helpful in the remaining of my stay when I wanted to practice and learn more Spanish. I loved the Spanish language and the rhythmic and harmonious sound of speaking Spanish so much that I have plans to continuously improve my Spanish. I also found people of Spain very friendly and helpful; despite my not-very-good Spanish, everyone patiently was trying to understand me, and this helped my confidence in speaking.
From a personal perspective, staying in Spain for two months, provided a great opportunity for me to familiarize myself with the Spanish culture, language, food, and visit marvelous historical and artistic places, among other things. Flamenco music and dance, wooden hand fans, white cities with narrow medieval streets decorated with beautiful plants and colorful flowers made scenes in my memory that I can never forget. I admire the people and the country for keeping the cities for centuries, cities that are the fruit of Moorish and Spanish coexistence. Walking in the cities of Andalusia, I could feel the souls of the people and ambience of a medieval city.
This program provided me the opportunity of visiting cities with rich history. As a part of the program, we visited the beautiful mountainous city of Grazalema, Tarifa (from where we saw Africa on the other side of the strait), Roman ruins from the second century in Bolonia, the beautiful city of Ronda, and finally one of the oldest caves of the world in Andalucia. Furthermore, I used this opportunity to visit cities with rich inter-cultural history, such as Seville, Cordoba, Granada, and Toledo. The Real Alcazar and the Cathedral of Seville, Mezquita (the mosque from the eighth century in Cordoba), and the beautiful Palace of Alhambra (which was like a shining jewel) are among the most fascinating places that I have visited in my life. In addition to Spain, I was fortunate to be able to travel to Portugal and Italy and visit beautiful places in these countries. I visited Venice and Florence in Italy and beautiful natural beaches and landscapes in Portugal, which are among some of the most beautiful places that I have visited.
Regarding the food, I got to try new dishes specific to southern Spain, mainly seafood. Being able to try various dishes in one meal as Tapas was wonderful. I liked Paella and some of the seafoods. I even looked up Paella’s recipe and surely I will try to cook it one day. One thing I really enjoyed in Spain was the coffee. I especially was a fan of “café con leche” or coffee with milk.
Another impact of this program was on my personal lifestyle. The transportation system was very convenient in Spain and I could access to train, bus or even a taxi very easily and, because of not having a personal car, I had to walk a lot during a day for visiting places and do grocery shopping. During this time, I realized that I need to include a constant walking schedule in my daily life, as I found it a fun activity that can help my health too.
Last but not least, I made a lot of new good friends both Spanish friends and UTC friends. These friendships also taught me a lot of things. In addition to personal impacts, communicating with my new friends helped me improve my communication and speaking (both in English and Spanish) skills.
Overall, the summer research in Spain helped me not only to broaden my academic knowledge and network, but also to become familiar with the rich culture of Spain and opened new doors for my future life and job. I am very thankful for receiving this opportunity and will seriously consider applying for similar opportunities in the future. I am already making plans to visit Spain and Europe again.
Monireh Rahmati (PhD Computational Science) participated in the Summer 2022 international summer learning opportunity for students offered through the Office of Undergraduate Research and Creative Endeavors. The International Summer Undergraduate Research Program represents a collaboration between The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and the University of Cadiz in Spain. The purpose of the initiative is to support students to participate in an eight (8) week intensive research experience during the summer in a global environment. Monireh had the following to say about studying abroad, “Participating in this program exposed me to new challenges and opportunities, opened my eyes to other aspects of professional and personal life, and had impacts that changed my life.”
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