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Physical health

Chicago river
Photo by: akasped http://www.flickr.com/photos/akasped/

Dangerous bacteria in the USA

What do you say if your boss asks whether you’d like to spend a few months working in Chicago? Manon didn’t need to think twice. ‘Yes!’ Three months of exploring a new city, meeting new people and discovering cultural differences, all while working in a cool job – who wouldn’t jump at the chance?!

Working in Chicago, Illinois

Since October, 27-year old Manon has been calling Chicago home. ‘In the Netherlands, I was working as a researcher at Utrecht’s University Medical Center, studying the spread of bacteria. My work focuses mainly on bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics and for which there’s almost no treatment left. So an infection with one of these bacteria is very serious. We want to find out how these bacteria spread and how we can stop them.

 

In the United States you have some different bacteria than in Europe. In Chicago, there’s a group of researchers looking at one bacterium in particular, known as KPC, that’s still almost unknown in the Netherlands and the rest of Europe. Mainly they wanted to know how fast this bacterium spreads and whether it might help to quarantine patients who’ve been infected in a separate room or unit. Because we’d developed a method to calculate this mathematically in Utrecht, the team in Chicago invited us to help them. Hopefully, our work here will prevent the bacterium from becoming a problem in Europe.

 

This job mostly involves lots of computer work and calculations. I have my own office here that’s chock-full of computers that I use to do all the calculations. People who drop by my office are always pretty impressed by all the monitors and data. I’ll admit it’s quite a kick!

 

Holiday feeling

Outside work, when I’m in the city at weekends, I still have this feeling of being on holiday. I love it! It takes me just 20 minutes to get to downtown Chicago with its many – and vast – shops and stores and all the skyscrapers… Chicago boasts the tallest skyscraper in the US, as well as Lake Michigan and the Chicago River, which never fail to impress.

 

A million miles from home…

Naturally, I do miss the Netherlands and my family and friends. Fortunately, we can keep in touch via email, WhatsApp, Facebook and Skype. That makes the distance seem more manageable. Still, I’m looking forward to going back to the Netherlands and seeing everyone again for real. And – of course – to show and tell them about all my adventures here! And it certainly has been an adventure to get to work abroad for a few months.’