Sophia Armand is an international student from Denmark who came to Columbia to study psychology. Interested in epigenetics – the control of gene activity – she enrolled in courses in neuroscience and biology. She also landed an internship at the Champagne Lab, run by associate psychology professor Frances A. Champagne. Armand chats with us about the opportunities that brought her to New York and to Columbia, and why she wants to stay here.
Why don't you tell me a little bit about the program that brought you to Columbia?
It wasn't a specific program. I was studying abroad. My adviser had recommended Columbia because it offered the courses that I wanted to take. The course selection is great here. I arrived in August, and I haven't been home since.
At Columbia, I was writing my thesis for my home university and doing an internship at a research lab. So I actually just graduated from my home institution, the University of Southern Denmark.
Why did you choose Columbia?
There was course here called behavioral epigenetics, so that was actually the first reason I wanted to come here. The basic science of psychology has always been my interest. I've also been interested in behavioral epigenetics since I started studying psychology. So I applied and I got in, but unfortunately that course wasn't available in the fall semester.
So what courses did you take here?
I took drugs and behavior, which is a psychology course. I took affective neuroscience, behavioral neuroendocrinology, and evolutionary biology.
Can you tell me about your internship at the research lab at Columbia?
The main reason I came here was for the courses. But I got an internship at the lab run by Prof. Frances Champagne. My internship in the epigenetics research lab is great; I get to gain experience in the field.
Since I graduated, I'm probably going to do another internship at a psychological research lab with Prof. Dean Mobbs, also at Columbia. He does research in fear.
You're an international student, so are you living on campus? How did you navigate New York having never been here as an adult?
When I first got here, it was very confusing because it's such a big city. So I actually started in Brooklyn. I found an apartment through a friend and stayed there for two weeks while I looked for a permanent place. I was lucky enough to find an apartment through Craigslist. It only takes me 15 minutes to get to campus. So I feel really lucky.
Are you planning to stay in New York?
Yes, I would like to. I have to sort out my visa first, but I think I can make it work.
To work in a research lab is not that easy in Denmark. So it was definitely a great opportunity to intern at the epigenetics research lab. With my field, I have more possibilities here.