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During my internship at the Max Planck Institute of Plasma Physics in Garching, Germany, from November to February, I worked with the MHD and fast particles group, under the supervision of Matthias Hoelzl and Verena Mitterauer. My task involved using the MHD code JOREK to study the effects of screening of resonant magnetic perturbations (RMP) by nearby conducting structures and plasma in a tokamak. RMPs are crucial for controlling edge localized modes (ELMs), which can damage plasma-facing components in fusion reactors. Despite my limited background in plasma physics from previous coursework, Verena, my daily supervisor, provided a lot of guidance to help understand the topic and carry out my project. In the end, we successfully demonstrated screening qualitatively, both by conducting structures and plasma.

One important insight from this internship is that bumps in the road are just part of the research journey, no matter how well prepared you think you are. We spent quite a bit of time troubleshooting issues that popped up unexpectedly. With the project only lasting three months, it was crucial to decide whether to tackle these problems head-on or find workarounds. Personally, I would've liked more time because I felt a bit stressed most of the time, trying to juggle understanding the physics and understanding the software. Luckily, the support from IPP was fantastic. My daily supervisor was there whenever I need help. Furthermore, the PhD and other master students were very helpful and I could ask them for assistance whenever I needed it. And lastly, the group leader was very active in my supervision. He organized a hands-on session where we discussed my current issues and progress, roughly once every 2 weeks. He also organized a “walk & talk” once every month, where we (as the name implies) talked about the progress in a zoomed-out perspective while we walked around the Garching campus.

In general, the assistance from IPP surpassed any previous experiences I’ve had. As I mentioned before, the research group played an important role in keeping both me and my research on track. Besides that, the secretary was very effective and fast, always ready to help whenever I needed it. However, one small problem was that I didn’t obtain a guest pass during my stay, which I should have gotten in the first few weeks. This meant that I had to tell the guards that I was there for an internship every morning, which was very good German practice. After a month, they recognized me, which made it more easy to enter. I was very enthusiastic to practice my German and actually speak a bit. However, the IPP is very international and everyone almost always speaks German, so I ended up practicing less than I wanted.

The biggest change wasn’t necessarily the relocation to a different place, but it was the change in my social life. In Eindhoven, my agenda was always full of things to do and I could hang out with friends whenever I wanted. In Garching, I found myself with seven free evenings every week. I joined a hiphop crew in the beginning of my internship and had a lot of fun practicing with them. In the end, we performed in front of more than 600 people and I also gave a 2-lesson shuffle workshop. Furthermore, I also took initiative to go out with my research group during the weekends. We did a pubquiz, a karaoke and of course tasted some German beer. I would advise anyone to use the weekends to explore the country you’re in. German public transport is very cheap and you can easily explore the whole region while you’re there. One last take-away is to start looking for accommodations very early on. I only had 2 months to find someplace to stay, and the housing market close to Munich is crazy. In the end, I stayed in Mintraching, which is roughly 50 minutes away from Munich, but only 10 minutes by bus from the IPP. Even though it was nice to stay close to the institute, I missed the opportunity to live the big city life.

In my final week, I relocated to Munich, where I got a taste of urban living, albeit with the occasional discomfort of crowded U-Bahns. In the end, I highly recommend IPP for its supportive atmosphere and the atmosphere in Munich. I'll definitely miss Garching, IPP, and the friends I made there. Special thanks to FuseNet for providing support which has made this internship possible.