MU’s College of Engineering invited undergraduates to study abroad and welcomed its international students during International Week. The week consisted of various events including information sessions, a lunch Q&A aimed at encouraging STEM students to go abroad and more.
Organized by Lindsey Wisnewski, the College’s International Outreach Coordinator, the week helps students learn about all the opportunities and benefits the program offers.
“Some statistics have shown only about 3 percent of engineering students study abroad, whereas 47 percent of employers right now are actually screening for cross cultural competencies,” Wisnewski said. “It’s something that we think that we need to be building on, and for our students to be able to do that, that’s going to put them front and center when it comes to career fairs, internships, jobs, co-ops, everything.”
With trips to Peru, Ireland, China and more, students can get credits towards their degrees while gaining cultural experience that is highly regarded by employers.
Becky Gann is a senior Biological Engineering major who went to Greece during the winter of her sophomore year. Going abroad later helped her land an internship.
In the interview, “they asked me some questions about my previous internship, and they asked me about study abroad, and that was it,” Gann said. “They value it just as much as previous internships.”
Sammy Warren, a senior from Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, got one of her internships in a similar way. Warren and others who have studied abroad gave advice and shared their experiences at the Lunch & Learn, where students ate and asked questions about the process of taking a class in another country.
“I would bet anyone that I got my first internship because I studied abroad,” Warren said. “It’s a great talking point. Coming to things like this, studying abroad, anything you can do to make yourself a more well-rounded person is going to make you more competitive on the job market.”
Each course and location has different schedules and itineraries, so information sessions were held to breakdown the courses, process to apply, scholarships and cultural activities available to students.
There, Wisnewski talked about the enriching learning environment that comes with studying abroad. Those going to China will take calligraphy and martial arts classes, and those who go Europe have afternoons and weekends off to travel and experience the continent.
“Traveling around Europe is really cheap, and it’s really easy once you’re over there,” Wisnewski explained. “So we had some students this year who studied abroad with us in Italy, and one weekend they went to Greece, one weekend they went to Munich and another weekend they went to Paris. Then afterwards, they went to London and Ireland and toured around there. They got quite an extensive travel budget.”
Not only do students get to immerse into a new culture, they make new connections and learn beyond the course.
“A lot of them come back, and they’re very excited to have these skills that they didn’t think that they would be able to develop,” Wisnewski said. “A lot of our students who have done this also say that it was a great way they expanded beyond the students within their own department and got to know a lot of friends they wouldn’t have met otherwise.”
Gann made close friends on her study abroad trip that she continues to talk with every week.
“The friends I made was one of the coolest parts because as a sophomore, I knew people in bioengineering, knew people who had been in my FIG [Freshman Interest Group] freshman year and some of my organizations,” Gann said. “But I got to meet students who were seniors, students who were all different majors, even like journalism students were on that trip in Greece, so just meeting a lot of new people in the College of Engineering, it just makes it so much smaller.”