HEU Internship Experience as a Study Abroad Research Student

In early February 2020 I arrived in Melbourne from the Netherlands and started with my six-month internship at the Health Economics Unit (HEU), in the Melbourne School for Population and Global Health. Before my arrival I had a lot of contact with my research project supervisor, Dr Natalie Carvalho, about the project, but also for administrative things such as getting the right visa and my application to the University of Melbourne as a Study Abroad Research Student. The project I would work on was a systematic literature review on the use of utility and disability weights in the context of cost-effectiveness analysis of childhood vaccines. Since we only had contact via email and one Skype meeting, I was very excited to meet Natalie in person and to start my adventure ‘Down Under’!

After a few days of getting acquainted with the city, dealing with my jetlag (which wasn’t that bad actually) and finding a home for my time in Melbourne, I could really start with my internship. I had my own desk at the Centre for Health Policy and had a very warm welcome (everything was very well prepared :) ). The first weeks were a lot of introducing myself, getting to know the other HEU team members, but also defining my project with Natalie, Prof. Nancy Devlin and A/Prof Kim Dalziel. The first six weeks it was possible to work on location and to experience the positive spirit at the center and the many fascinating projects going on. Unfortunately, it was only for a short time due to the corona virus and subsequent restrictions.  We all had to work from home. This was of course very disappointing… Although working from home was the standard for the remainder of my time in Melbourne, I still had a good internship experience. I decided to keep working on the project and continued to have (digital) meetings with Natalie and the other HEU members. I also got to take part in the online short course run by the HEU, ‘Introduction to Health Economics’ which was very informative. In addition to this, every week there were several seminars that I could attend online, and we had social meetings on Friday afternoons, which were both nice breaks from the daily work. These meetings and seminars made that I still had a very good experience and also felt part of the team. In the future I hope I am able to return to the HEU as part of a working visit or in general, to visit Melbourne again and to say Hi to everyone in the Health Economics Unit in person!

Nienke Neppelenbroek