International internship to broaden expertise and network cross borders

Stemming from a joint goal of training future imaging experts in the field of life sciences, a collaboration between the Master in Cell Imaging programme at the University of Rouen, France, and the MSc programme in Biomedical Imaging at Åbo Akademi University and the University of Turku, Finland was established to share expertise and create more opportunities for the students. As a part of this collaboration, the students have an opportunity to seek an international internship placement in the partner universities. The internship is arranged through Erasmus partnership. Jihane El Manouzi, a 1st-year Cell Imaging student from the University of Rouen, was the first one to complete an internship. She joined the Toivola Epithelial biology lab at Åbo Akademi University from April to June 2024. 

I was very excited to learn that we have an opportunity to seek for an international internship more easily through a partner program”, Jihane says. The students are still required to be active in the search for a placement, but the partner program supports them. The partner program contacts scout for open positions in local laboratories based on the candidate’s background and interests. After and if a match is found, an Erasmus internship agreement is signed, and other paperwork put in order before the internship can take place. “I hope that in the future this opportunity is advertised even more, as it is important to look for the placement in good time before the time comes to start. Us in the French program have fixed dates when the internship must take place, and especially getting the paperwork done can be quite a long process, and there’s also arranging transportation and accommodation and these practical things.”

So how was it coming to Turku, Finland all by oneself?To me it was quite easy”, Jihane explains. “I was able to get an apartment from TYS (local student housing foundation), though it was unfurnished so, in the beginning, I had nothing, but at least a roof over my head”, she laughs. “Luckily the local student community is very efficient in recycling, and it was convenient and affordable way of getting necessary things, and to get rid of them once the internship is over. Also, the lab members were extremely welcoming which made settling in a breeze.

So how was it working in a Finnish lab? Jihane: It was great getting to learn about another culture and work environment. Especially the low hierarchy is different and something to get used to, but very nice! Everyone was also super helpful and people in general speak great English, so it is easy to get around.

And what about life outside the internship? Jihane: My best advise is to be active and most of all open to opportunities, and there will be much to do! Of course, the lab members are an excellent contact point to the community outside of work. Turku is a nice and vibrant city with lots to do and see, and it is still reasonably small to easily get around. In this sense it has quite similar vibe to Rouen actually!“

And would she recommend this opportunity to others? Jihane: 100 percent! Both for professional and personal reasons.

And this is what the principal investigator of the Toivola lab and the Biomedical Imaging Master’s Degree Program director in Åbo Akademi University Diana Toivola has to say about the internship exchange: “It was a really great experience all around to have Jihane in my lab for this two month Erasmus internship. Jihane came after her first year of imaging studies with enough experience that made her a very quick learner in the lab and at the microscopes. With her lab mentor Mira Minkkinen, they together successfully set up and tested a new sample preparation technique, expansion microscopy, in our lab. Jihane also worked with Petar Kosijer and others in the lab to broaden her lab experience. I am very pleased with this first exchange and looking forwards to facilitating and expanding our collaboration with the program in Rouen.

If you are interested to learn more about Jihane’s experience, you can contact her by email at and she is happy to share more information. To learn more about the collaboration of Master’s degree programs and related opportunities, contact

On photo: Jihane El Manouzi

Åbo Akademi UniversityUniversity of Turku