Munson Lab Graduate Student 2018-Present
Hometown: Rio Rancho, NM, USA
Destination: Barcelona, Spain

Cora Esparza

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I studied abroad at the University of Barcelona during the Spring semester of 2022 in the lab of Dr. Issac Almendros. During this exchange, I learned how to generate tissue-specific hydrogels through a process of decellularization and lyophilization. I also learned about their multi-function microfluidic chips that incorporate oxygen gradients, elasticity, and electrical stimulation all in a hydrogel-compatible platform! In May, I attended a vascular-focused conference, EMBO Workshop on Building Networks: Engineering in vascular biology hosted in Barcelona. This was a great opportunity to network with the European vascular community. In fact, many PhD and postdocs had attended NAVBO in 2019 in Monterey, CA and we reconnected.

 

Outside of the lab, my husband and I spent most of our time practicing spanish. We enrolled in Camino Barcelona, an amazing local Spanish institute. Although only being “semi-intensive” students, we were able to advance to intermediate Spanish speakers (level B1)! We also got involved in a local church, went to salsa lessons, took paella cooking classes, read A LOT of books, and traveled to southern Spain, Italy, and Turkey.

 

My favorite part was getting to know the people, both in the lab and in the community. Barcelona is a huge mixing pot with tons of Argentineans, Moroccans, Panamanians, and, of course, people all over Europe. Having this much diversity in one small city (it seems small!) creates a unique blending of culture, holidays, and food!

 

Thank you to IIE-GIRE for making this experience possible!