Students have heard it many times — studying abroad will expand their horizons and provide them with global experience that employers desire.
The reason they hear it so often is because it happens to be statistically true. For a more personal account, take Mizzou Engineering alumna Carly Garrow.
Garrow, a 2017 bioengineering graduate, spent 10 months across 2017 and 2018 in Heidelberg, Germany as part of the prestigious Whitaker International Program. The program sends American bioengineering students and recent graduates abroad to work on a self-designed project with the goal of accelerating their development into leaders in the field.
In Garrow’s case, that’s exactly what it did, building her skills in a variety of areas and helping her land a job recently with leading orthopaedic medical device manufacturers Zimmer Biomet.
“I gained skills in teaching laparoscopic surgery tasks to novices, including identifying areas where most people struggle and trying to develop methods to better explain/work on these areas,” she explained. “I observed a few surgeries with the da Vinci surgical robot, interacted with the da Vinci staff, and even got to try the robot out in a simulated setting – it’s not as easy as the surgeons make it look!”
She not only explained how the surgical procedures and robot technology worked, she had to do it in German and eventually passed her C1 exam, certifying her as fluent, and advised anyone else heading abroad on a fellowship to immerse themselves in the language.
Improving her technical skills was another plus of the experience.
“I was able to work with a lot of medical students and clinical people and learn more about the clinical side of things, which for engineers is sometimes hard to come by,” Garrow said. “I was also able to work on a few of my technical skills, work on improving some programming skills and my understanding of machine learning for some projects that I did.”
The program was indispensable when it came time to interview with Zimmer Biomet. Garrow said that the experience of living abroad showcased her ability to live and work independently, which is key in her new position, which requires virtual office work and traveling to clients to help them understand the devices they’re working with.
“I had that kind of teaching experience, and when I went to the interview, one of the people I was interviewing with said just the experience here of learning how to teach someone a surgical skill is something they find valuable and something they do every day,” she said.
For those interested in going the fellowship route, Garrow said not to be intimidated by the possibility of other strong applicants and just apply. After all, you can’t get a fellowship you don’t apply for.
“It’s very easy to say, ‘Oh, there’s all these other good applicants. Why would they pick me?’ But overcome the intimidation and work with other people to get your app as good as it can be and keep looking for opportunities,” Garrow said.