I have recently won an internship called ASTRO at ORNL, and I am in the process of settling down in the US which so far, has been an adventurous journey because I have changed my lifestyle and I am still getting used to a culture different to that of my homeland: Peru.
This new endeavour has been supported by helpful, smart and lovely people such as Elizabeth and Arthur from ORISE, as well as Sheila, Arjun, Kate and Truly from ORNL. If you are a foreigner involved in computer and/or science with an internship ORNL plan in your mind, you must give it a go. I am sharing my experience in this post to give you a hint of what the first steps of this experience are.
1.- Looking for a period of the internship
Depending on the time they may take, internships can go for as long as months or even a year. Personally, I feel lucky to be here during the Spring and Summer seasons!
If you come from Russia or any other cold climate in the world, you won’t mind to be here in Winter or Fall. I am only saying this because even though we are in Spring, I have to wear coats and warm pants to endure the very cold mornings and nights in Tennessee, US.
2.- Find a place to stay
ORNL has arranged many possibilities to stay and the options are published on the Website interhousing.com , most of the choices are houses located in Oak Ridge (small area), but quite far from the city town. In case you have a car, this is a good option because it is around a 25 minute drive from ORNL. However, if you do not drive, there is an option called carpool, where you and more interns can coordinate schedules to go to the lab or any other facility (Catching the bus is not an option in this case).
I chose an apt located in Knoxville near the UT, and I was evaluated prior to being admitted, they will ask you for a guarantor if you do not have a credit card, and also a financial proof that you can cover the payment. There is a bus system called Kat that can take you around the city for $1.5 each trip, but it does not take you to ORNL. Fortunately, there is a shuttle called T that takes me every business day to ORNL (around an hour journey). In my mind, finding an apt near Pellissipi (PSCC) is a good alternative because the shuttle can take you for free to ORNL in around 30 minutes, and you can walk to K available stops.
3.- The VISA
Despite the documentation of approvals to go to ORNL, you have to pass an interview of around 20 minutes and present all the documentation that proves you are capable to belong to the ORNL staff. You have to be prepared to do it in English and take more money, I mean not only for the paperwork regarded the visa, I am talking about purses or bag, it could cost 16 soles in Peru and 18 soles the photography (in case they do not accept the passport picture). I would recommend to take in your hand only your documentation in a folder and present a passport picture that shows the whole ears and the right size.
4.- Your Flight Journey
If you search on Internet the airport to get Tennessee (TN) can take you at the Nashville airport, but it is recommendable to select Knoxville airport. I missed the domestic flight because the line had a very few people comparing with other international flights. Going to Knoxville is not common and the plane is so small (20 seats) so be so aware about the time of departure, they might not anounce but updated and visible itinerary are always displayed in the electronic panel at the airport.
5.- Food and Appliances
As I mentioned early, I chose a furniture apt (other cheaper options were to rent an apt with no furnitures and rent the appliances for a certain period of time). I have a stove, refrigetaror, microwave and a bed with lamps and closets, incuding a nice bathroom, but I had to buy the sheets, a broom, a blender, a spoon, a fork, some dishes, a vacuum cleaner, an iron, and so on… and of course, items to cleand and to prepare my meals. Then, I recommend to include in your budget this considerations that can cost around $500.
6.- Your USA cellphone number
There are companies that provide a service of communication such as AT&T, T-mobile, and verizon among others. It is not enought to by the SIM card and you also have to decide for a montly plan to be communicated with others in the US. Approximately it can cost around $75 a montly plan plus $20 for the SIM card. I was searching for the cheapest and convenient plan, and I found there is a posibility to have a card if you are a student. I took the Criket limit plan for $35 that includes data and local calls, but not international ones.
7.- Getting around
I have paid the monthly bus card that cost $50 and you can go aroung the town using the Kat routes system and there also Trolley bus for free, which is helpful to go to Walmart (a marketplace where you can buy anything cheaper) and Publix (another cheap place to eat). There is a Mall at Knoxville called West Town where you can buy more sophisticated and personalized things. If I can give you on piece of advice when you check “how to get there” in Google or even in the bus Website, I would say that it is required to check not only times and stops, it is also important to check the direction of the route because it is not the same for both ways. As well as to not trust a 100% in Google Maps when it says that the route might take you a walk of 4 minutes, but in real, it takes more (unless you do giant steps and not waiting so long for the traffic signals to change).
In order to have any formal paperwork you must wait 10 days after arriving to the USA. Insurances and social secure numbers can be only provided after that period. There is a wide range of possibilities but one recommendable is called BCBST. In order to open a bank account it is required to have these documents ready.
9.- First days at ORNL
ORNL is a huge place that offers lots of opportunities to grow up as a profesional in science and tech. I have seen creative and responsible people and my group is not an exception of this! This lab offers all the facilities to be comfortable and the policies they have are essential in order to be a cutting-edge institute. One of my dreams came true when I personally saw the SUMMIT and the TITAN supercomputers… now I can die in peace! Another tip… if you arrive before 8am, you can enjoy a delicious breakfast in the cafeteria 🙂
10.- Turistic places
I am planning to visit the east north area of TN to do a hicking around the mountains soon, and I want to complete a bucket-list as this Website suggests.
Special thanks to God, Phd. Manuel Bermudez, my new friends Valerie and Nellie, my parents and sisters, to my friends: Liz, Verito, Jane, Chio, Fio, Mateito, Martin and Gra, to my Linux mentors: Genghis Rios, Felipe Solari, Phil Bull, Jim Campbell and Peony, to my students Carlos Aznaran, Leo, Julitos and GG of UNI, my English teacher Yulian & Google.