Destiny in a Destination

By Laura Elena Lopez Ramos

Destiny in a Destination

By Laura Elena Lopez Ramos
Travel scholarship recipient Saskia Vos shares her once in a lifetime experience of teaching a class at the University of Hildesheim in Germany.

Second-year Prevention Science and Community Health Ph.D. student, Saskia Vos, never thought she would use her bachelor's degree in German and her background in teaching elementary school for anything related to her Ph.D. research. But there she was, teaching a course for Health Psychology master’s students in Germany last semester, and having a full circle moment. 


Saskia was a recipient of the Graduate Student Travel Scholarship, an initiative by the Graduate School to help students enrich their professional development by traveling to promote their research and/or attend conferences. The scholarship made possible this extraordinary opportunity in Hildesheim, Germany by covering travel costs, such as airfare and housing accommodations. 


During her weeklong stay in Germany, Saskia took on the challenging task of preparing and teaching a condensed intersession-like course at the University of Hildesheim. She was invited to lecture there after a team of researchers from the institution visited the University of Miami’s Department of Public Health Sciences last year. Hildesheim was looking for young lecturers from different countries to offer short courses in the Health Psychology program.

The course was a discussion-based seminar with 18 master’s level students titled Introduction to Prevention Science and Intervention Development, which focused on designing intervention programs for health problems in communities. While immersing herself in the culture, Saskia was also able to sit in on other classes at the University of Hildesheim.

"It was phenomenal to teach in another country a course to master’s level students, as a second year Ph.D.,” said Saskia. She added that it helped her confirm what she feels passionate and knowledgeable about. "It made me realize how confident I feel discussing my research."

Furthermore, Saskia feels this experience helped her settle on the topic of her dissertation. "Preparing the lectures for this seminar inspired a lot of self-reflection about what I wanted to say or felt important to say in such a short course," she explained, adding that her focus will be on Venezuelan refugees in Miami and the mental health effects associated with this transition. "So it was like boom," she recounted, "this is what I want to do for my dissertation.”

Motivated by her life-altering experience in Germany, Saskia encourages all graduate students to take advantage of funding resources like the Graduate Student Travel Scholarship to attend and present at conferences or other institutions. "Participating in these opportunities as a grad student, where you constantly have to relay who you are and your research interests, is really beneficial in helping you discover what topic you want to be an expert on," reflected Saskia. 

“I came to this semester with a very clear idea of what I wanted to do for my dissertation focusing on this very small niche of Public Health research," declared Saskia, who is already applying to grants to fund interventions for Venezuelan families coming to Miami.

To learn more about the Graduate Student Travel Scholarship, click here.