Laurens van Buuren - writing M.Sc. thesis at Irstea
Coming from Wageningen University in the Netherlands, Master of Science student Laurens van Buuren worked on his master’s thesis at Irstea headquarters in Antony, France until the end of February 2011. Overall, he found conducting research at Irstea much the same as in Wageningen.
"The atmosphere at the workplace is very similar here than in the Netherlands. It feels almost like home here", he said.
What is the topic of your research?
I study the relationship between water policy concerning Seine and the Seine fish community. I look at the development of water policy over time and the development of the fish community and look for possible connections.
How did you find out about the opportunity to come and conduct your research in France for five months?
Initially I just did an internet search to find European research institutes or companies which would be suitable and found Irstea at that point. My professor at Wageningen UR knew the PEER contact person at Alterra who then contacted the PEER contact persons at Irstea. So even though Wageningen University & Research centre as a whole is not a PEER partner, the PEER network proved invaluable in facilitating the contact.
Would you encourage other researchers or staff to participate in similar staff exchange opportunities?
I can only speak for students, but I would definitely recommend to the students at Wageningen that they search Irstea and other PEER centres for possible research positions or internships. And vice-versa, I would recommend to French students to search for opportunities at Wageningen.
How was it to arrange all the practical details?
Irstea gave me the go-ahead for doing my thesis in June 2010. In July I made a visit to the site in Antony to further discuss my interests and to meet my supervisors. By contract I am an intern.
To find a place to stay I submitted a – fruitless – application at the Cité Universitaire campus, found two temporary rooms and in the end found a permanent place to stay through people I met in Paris.
I took a language course in Paris in September which helped me a great deal in learning the language and in discovering the city on my spare time with fellow students and making friends, who I still see on a regular basis.
Have you had time to enjoy the cultural and culinary delights that Paris has to offer?
Yes, especially during the weekends I try to discover Paris as much as possible. Being Dutch, finding the good bars with cheap beer is like a sport. And from time to time I go out for dinner with friends. At home I switched from Gouda cheese to Chèvre and Roquefort, and from beer to wine.
Winter is not the best time to enjoy the many parks of Paris so I regularly visit museums, profiting from the free entrance for students. Having all these facilities at short distance is a treat for a student from a small Dutch town like Wageningen.