William Fiore

Departure Date:
06/26/2019
Return Date:
08/04/2019
Local Institution:
West Virginia University (WVU)
Local Advisor:
Prof. Maura McLaughlin
Foreign Institution:
University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN)
Foreign Advisor:
Prof. Kavilan Moodley
Student Status:
Graduate Student
  • Q. What country were you staying in?
    • South Africa
  • Q. Where were you doing research?
    • University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN)
  • Q. How long were you there?
    • 5 weeks
  • Q. What sort of research were you doing?
    • While continuing with my own research, I assisted the two other American students (Andrew & Westley) with their projects. This includes assisting with the installation of software packages on local machines; providing scientific background on radio astronomy, pulsars, and fast radio bursts; and helping to shape the student projects.
  • Q. Did being abroad influence the kind of research you’re doing?
    • Since I went abroad more to help with other students’ projects than to undertake a separate project of my own, and due to the fact that I had already started doing research in graduate school, this particular trip did not influence my research very much. However, helping other people learn the basics always helps me solidify my understanding.
  • Q. What’s the coolest thing about being abroad?
    • I always enjoy experiencing new places and different cultures, and seeing how people live in other countries.
  • Q. What’s your favorite new phrase from the language?
    • I did learn a few Zulu phrases when I was there, but unfortunately I’ve forgot them all now that a year has passed.
  • Q. What’s the hardest thing about being abroad?
    • Not that it was a personal hardship, but seeing the extreme inequality between white and black South Africans was what most affected me personally. So many people live in extreme poverty, particularly in the slums and rural areas. I was pleased that the students I met doing astronomy research at UKZN were quite diverse, though; some even come from other African nations to pursue a career in science.
  • Q. What did you do in your free time?
    • When possible, we went out with our hosts and people we met in the department to experience the city. One time, we took a day trip out to the countryside with another visiting student and had a great time.
  • Q. What’s the coolest thing you’ve done or seen while abroad?
    • Definitely going zip-lining through a rainforest.
  • Q. What’s the weirdest thing you’ve done or seen while abroad?
    • nan
  • Q. What advice would you offer others thinking of going abroad?
    • The earlier you get a SIM card for a local network that you can use in your phone, the better. It’s also useful to know that you can download a region to your phone on Google Maps. I used this to navigate from the airport to our airbnb before I had a local SIM card. You also want to make sure you have one or two international adapters so you can charge your phone and laptop, plus a little bit of US currency that you can convert. Don’t bring hundreds of dollars or anything, just enough so that you’ll have a way to pay for things if they don’t accept cards or your card gets declined. Make sure you let your credit card company/bank know that you’ll be traveling.
  • Q. What skills have you learned abroad?
    • I’d been abroad before, so once I got used to how things worked in Durban in particular, I didn’t have many things that I specifically needed to learn. I’m lucky that I wasn’t in charge of driving, though; I would have learned to drive stick and on the left side of the road in the crazy Durban traffic!
  • Q. Is there anything you’d do differently or anything you wish you’d have known?
    • I would have paid more attention to the development of student protests on the campus. I once stumbled into a cloud of tear gas when going to get lunch. Keeping appraised of local events is important!