This training period was my first real scientific work experience and I had no idea what to expect from a Canadian laboratory. During my first day of work at the Biodiversity Institute of Ontario, I realized my expectations of what the lab would be like was very different from reality. I imagined a building mainly made up of white corridors and lab mates who would not necessarily speak to each other. Instead I found myself inside a beautiful modern building with large open rooms and a team that made me feel like it was a big family: everyone was very friendly with each other and I soon became one of their friends as well. I soon participated in many different tasks within the Institute.
Some tasks were pretty tiresome due to repetition (such as inspecting vouchers for invisible mites), but others were more interesting like photographing specimens, tissues sampling or doing field work at the rare Charitable Research Reserve to set up traps and collect insects. But no matter the activity was, it was always fun and relaxed – you can not find a better atmosphere to work in! Before this experience I had no real interest in insects and no practical knowledge of genetic research, but thanks to my colleagues and to this internship, I learned a lot of unexpected tricks to recognize different insect orders and more about the functioning of the Institute. For example, I learned a lot about what was involved in DNA barcoding specimens: extraction, amplification and sequencing of DNA and all the other steps that I had no idea about!
In the past I already had the opportunity to visit the province of Quebec and explore Montreal. Lucky for me, I got to visit Montreal once more for a week before starting my internship and had the opportunity to taste some Canadian specialties like poutine! After Montreal, I made my way down to Guelph, which was my first trip to the English-speaking part of Canada in Ontario and I discovered a lot of new landscapes!
We also spent a day in Canada’s largest city, Toronto, to visit the docks and streets. I felt really tiny compared to the height of some buildings, which was very impressive because we were not accustomed to this type of architecture in the south of France. We also took advantage of a beautiful sunny weekend to visit the famous Niagara Falls, and this location was full of tourists, but it was still an incredible sight! We even took the ferry to sail to the foot of the falls, which was a wonderful opportunity to take great pictures and also to have a nice shower. Another day after work, our colleague took us paddling on a canoe on Speed River with her friends, where we were quietly paddled down the river surrounded by trees. This was one of the most pleasant and relaxing moments of the stay. Then another work friend took us further north to stay at her parents’ chalet in Huntsville for the weekend surrounded by large lakes. I will always keep the memory of that day, where we went on a motorboating trip around the large lakes, tasted maple walnut ice cream, swam along the shore, watched the sunset on the hill overlooking the city and finally toasted marshmallows around a bonfire after dark. A true Canadian day !
All in all, I had the opportunity to practice and improve my English during the 6 week internship, immersed in a beautiful country with friends who ensured that I never got bored! It was a great experience that makes me want to come back!