BS/MS Bioinformatics Student Ben Lorentz and Study Abroad
Ben Lorentz knew he wanted to come to Loyola University Chicago to study Bioinformatics. “Bioinformatics incorporates a lot of my interests—computers, biology, statistics—and it tapped into my strengths.” Ben also knew from the very start of his college career that he wanted to Study Abroad. “I told my freshman advisor, I told my academic advisor, I told anyone who knew about it.” Ben said he had to plan for it, to work it in his 4 year plan. He went to a Study Abroad Fair and learned about several programs before choosing Prague, Czech Republic. Ben said the program, which he attended in Spring 2017, included a two week intensive Czech language course and he also registered for a semester course in Czech. “Everyone there speaks Czech, which is a Slavic based language which is very different from a Germanic based language like English” so having the 3 native Czechs working within the program helped the students learn the language and also navigate the country.
The group visited Pilsen, the town that founded Pilsner lager and the largest producer—and consumer—of Pilsner beer. They toured the Pilsen Urquell brewery “We got to see the entire process of beer making” and learned the history of how the town’s brewers got together to make a world-class beer to ward off their reputation for bad brew. They also went on a trip to Pardubice, a town known for hockey and horseracing. Ben said going to see a hockey game there was so much fun, “I was giddy the whole time, I knew the rules, I knew what was going on but all the announcements were in Czech.” The experience was beyond language in a way and Ben said he realized “They’re just like us.” Ben’s Jewish Contemporary Studies class also visited the Franz Kafka Museum and the Jewish Graveyard where Kafka is buried.
Ben said he was struck by Prague’s post-Soviet roots and eclectic history. “As a country it’s definitely more modern, the architecture is cold and industrial but also very medieval and warm, there are castles with turrets, you have that next to a glass and steel tower that looks like something out of the Jetsons right next to a billboard for the new iphoneX. But it makes sense when you’re there experiencing it, seeing history up close.” Ben also found time to travel to many other countries during his Study Abroad semester, including the UK twice.
Ben’s advice to students interested in Study Abroad: “Figure out what kind of program you want. I knew I wanted something challenging, kind of out of left field…ask people who have gone to either the place or program. If you ask people in the Study Abroad office, they’ll usually be able to get in touch with former student, so you can pick their brain and just see what their experience was.” Ben also suggested to “Set yourself up for success and keep an open mind” and remember that there are people there to help you acclimate to the new environment and experience.
Ben is graduating in 2019 and is currently in Dr. Kelly’s microbial ecology lab, studying the effects of pharmaceuticals in freshwater ecosystems.