EECE international program gets high students reviews, influences their career choices

| Staff Reporter

The International Experience Program in the University’s Energy, Environmental and Chemical Engineering (EECE) department coordinates a program that allows students to travel to various Asian countries over the summer to study EECE advances and learn about foreign cultures.

The program is a component of the McDonnell International Scholars Academy, whose membership includes the University and 24 partner institutions around the world.

EECE Professor of Practice Ruth Chen said she believes the international research and learning connectivity established by the program helps students respond to global issues in environmental and energy studies.

“Even though we have environmental and chemical problems in this country we can see how other countries approach these issues… [which] will give us a wonderful perspective of how to solve ours and also solve them in a way that doesn’t create problems in other parts of the globe,” Chen said.

The International Experience brings students to a partner institution over the summer, and continues the learning experience through a three-credit course offered the following fall.

Students attend a weekend language school to develop a conversational understanding before the program. While abroad, students take courses taught in English on the individual nation’s history and culture. They also have the opportunity to see laboratories, meet professors who are leading the students’ fields of study, and attend lectures and laboratory projects.

Upon their return, students work on a project with a faculty advisor that culminates in a research paper.

History: Beijing, China 2008

In China, the program has been run through two partner universities in Beijing: Tsinghua University and Peking University, both of which are top-tier schools.

Students in the program also worked alongside government officials to improve Beijing’s air quality before the Olympics.

“The inaugural year went quite well,” Chen said.

History: Seoul, Korea 2009

The University has three partner universities in Seoul, Korea: Yonsei University, Seoul National University and Korea University. The International Experience program also coordinated some lessons with the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST).

Students concluded their visit with a seminar presentation to 200 Korean engineering students.

Future Programs

This summer, the International Experience will go to IIT Bombay.

The International Experience is scheduled to go to Hong Kong and Shanghai in 2011 and 2012, respectively.

Chen expects the program’s strength to continue and also hopes to expand the availability of internships in the country post-program.

“I feel that this type of in-depth study would prepare our students for their future challenges in their work or in their academic pursuits,” Chen said. “The perspective they bring from abroad will make them a world citizen and make them more perceptive to world problems, environmental and energy issues in other parts of the world.”

Benefits of the Program

Chen notes that many students have been heavily impacted by the program.

“I feel it was eye-opening in many ways to the students and they bring back a new perspective,” Chen said.

One student called the Beijing experience “the highlight of his life,” according to Chen.

A number of participants who have graduated have gone on to graduate school or careers related to their experience.

Beijing program participant Tyler Nading told Chen that at a certain point in his career, he wanted to work in China.

Chen said she believes other participants in the Beijing Program have had life-changing experiences.

“They have seen how far China has come, but they also see how much farther China has to go. They realize it’s a global issue, and it’s not a problem for only the Chinese to solve. It takes going to China to have that realization,” Chen said.

Students who participated in the Korea Program have continued on to related internships.

Senior Michael Craig said he learned a lot through the Korean program and recommends it to future students.

“It seemed to be a great opportunity to visit a part of the world I’ve not been to while also learning a tremendous amount and possibly networking with people outside our nation,” Craig said. “Meeting people there who may be potential contacts later in life [if] I choose to look for a job there was a great opportunity.”

Chen said she believes the program participants have remarkable potential, which the International Experience Program will help to develop.

“As far as I see, they are very good engineers and this would make them better engineers and better citizens of the world,” Chen said.