Day: May 24, 2019

Engineering Study Abroad: Joshua Turner, ’20, Cergy, France

Growing up, Joshua Turner lived in four different states in the US, and visited over thirty of them. He loved traveling, but the only time he’d ever left the country was at nine months old, on a family trip to Canada. He longed to travel abroad, but finances and time always seemed to get in the way. Until he did a little more research. Turns out, it was entirely doable. Turner is now living his dream in Cergy, France, studying electrical engineering at ENSEA.

First, please tell us a bit about yourself.
I enjoy exploring outside—either going to the beach or hiking. I grew up in Houghton, near the Michigan Tech campus. I enjoy snowboarding in the winter, but it’s about the only thing I like about snow. I’m a member of the Ski and Snowboarding Club, and the Triangle Fraternity.

How did you get interested in Studying Abroad?
As an electrical engineering student, I always assumed it wouldn’t be possible to take any of the classes I needed while studying abroad. A few friends of mine had traveled abroad, though, and I realized I should try to actually talk with someone, just to find out if it could be possible for me, or not. So I met with Judy Donahue, my ECE academic advisor. Judy recommended I take a look at the French American Exchange (FAME) program at ENSEA,École Nationale Supérieure de l’Electronique et de ses Applications, in Cergy, France. She said I only needed to move around a couple of classes.

The cost was the next biggest concern of mine. I saved most of my money from an internship last summer, and from my on-campus job during the school year. I found out that I only needed to pay my Michigan Tech tuition for the program. All my financial aid and scholarships still applied. The only real extra cost was for the visa and the flight. I set up a budget once I got to France to make sure I’d be able to travel without worrying about running out of money.

Small group of students and faculty at Spring 2019 Orientation for Study Abroad Students at ENSEA in Cergy, France
Spring 2019 Orientation for Study Abroad Students at ENSEA in Cergy, France

What is your academic experience like in Cergy, France?
ENSEA is one of the highest ranked engineering schools in France. It is focused solely on electrical engineering, with fewer than 1,000 full-time students. There are 14 American students in the FAME program. Classes are taught in English by the French professors. My largest engineering class had seven students and my smallest had four students. One class was spent entirely in the lab with both American and French students working together—a very cool experience.

Classes at ENSEA don’t have a set schedule. Each week can be completely different than the next. We check the schedule online regularly. Classes are at fairly consistent times, but it’s not uncommon to have a Monday class, for example, get moved to Wednesday or Thursday. This is sometimes beneficial. If a few of us want to travel over the weekend, we can ask the professor to move a Friday class to another day, earlier in the week.

Why did you choose France?
I was willing to go anywhere that would work with my degree program. Somewhere in Europe was my top choice. If I could go back and do it again, I think I would still choose France. It’s been such an amazing experience and the culture here is so unique and full of history.

Main courtyard of the Louvre Palace in Paris with glass pyramid in view
Main courtyard of the Louvre Palace in Paris

What is it like living in Cergy?
Cergy is a suburb of Paris, host to six universities. Almost everyone here is either a student or commutes to Paris for work. Luckily, there is a train in Cergy that can get to the center of Paris in about 40 minutes. I purchased a monthly train pass which includes unlimited access to trains, buses, and metros within the entire Île-de-France region. I go into Paris a few times a week. I started off seeing the big tourist attractions. Then I started visiting less popular parts of Paris, places most tourists don’t have time to see. There are apps which make public transportation really easy to navigate.

In Cergy I stay at the housing provided by the university—an actual apartment. The bedrooms are rather large, and the kitchens are very tiny. It’s a 15 minute walk to ENSEA and a 20 minute walk to the train station. The parks and walking paths can actually be enjoyed in winter, since, unlike Houghton, they’re not covered by 15 ft of snow! We play soccer or basketball at one of the parks after class. Usually some French children will ask to join us—which is always super fun. I found two grocery stores, and shop with no difficulty finding what I was looking for. I’ve become accustomed to having baguettes (which cost less than 1 euro each) as a daily part of my diet.

Joshua Turner and two fellow ECEA students at the Chain Bridge and Buda Castle in Budapest, Hungary
At the Chain Bridge and Buda Castle in Budapest, Hungary

Have you visited any other cities and countries?
I spend a lot of time experiencing all the different cultures of Europe. Every six weeks of classes are followed by a two-week vacation, so I have four total weeks of vacation. Some of the other students and I planned trips together. We have become really experienced at traveling. On the first break, I visited the Czech Republic, Austria, Hungary, England, and Scotland. Then on my second break, I went to the south of France to Toulouse, Marseille, Nice, and Monaco. After that, I went to Italy and visited Rome, Florence, Cinque Terre, and Milan. I also took a few weekend trips to Brussels, Strasbourg, and Mont-Saint-Michel. All in all, I will have visited over a dozen countries during this semester—way more than I used to think I’d visit in my entire life!

What is the most challenging part of the experience?
I am used to aiming for A’s and B’s and consider anything less to be disappointing. In France, the grading scale is from 0 to 20. Anything above a 10 is good. Almost no one gets a 20 and if you get a 16 it’s really impressive. Getting used to the grading scale was probably the most difficult academic adjustment for me at first, but after finding out you don’t need a 20—and that understanding the concepts is more important than the grade—it became easier to deal with.

The language barrier is, of course, a big challenge. I barely knew any French when I arrived. Luckily, all students at ENSEA learn English and some are very good at it. Now, near the end of the semester, I am to the point where I can usually get by while in Paris speaking only French. It is a very fulfilling feeling.

Joshua Turner and 3 other students at the Trevi Fountain in Rome, Italy
At the Trevi Fountain in Rome, Italy

What are your plans for this summer?
Finals end the last week of May. Once those finish I will travel for a week to the UK and Spain before flying back to America. I then have about three weeks to relax at home before flying off to an internship/co-op with Nissan. I return to Michigan Tech in the spring of 2020, just two semesters left before graduation.


Engineering Study Abroad: Ryan Schrader ’20, Christchurch, New Zealand

Ryan Schrader stands atop Roys Peak, located between the town of Wanaka and Glendhu Bay on the South Island of New Zealand.


Ryan Schrader, a third year mechanical engineering student at Michigan Tech, ventured all the way to Christchurch, New Zealand to gain independence from his “comfortable bubble”. He’s there now, taking classes at the University of Canterbury. Schrader’s goal is to gain a new, multicultural lens—one he can share with others once he returns. He also wants to prepare himself for a future job traveling the globe. 
Read on to learn more about his adventure thus far!

First, please tell us a bit about yourself.
I fill up my time with studying, sports, hiking, and hanging with friends. I’m currently involved with the the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), the Tennis Club, Circle K (a community service organization). Although I am a mechanical engineer, I am also a member of Society of Environmental Engineers (SEEn). I love fall season in the Keweenaw. I also love the massive amounts of snow, but winter lasts a while. I figured I wouldn’t miss too much by traveling abroad.

How did you get interested in Studying Abroad?
I inherited an adventurous and explorative spirit from my parents. I first started looking at study abroad during my second year at Michigan Tech, but planned it for my third year, when my classes worked out well. I got very interested when I began hearing others share their own study abroad experiences.

What was your academic experience like in Christchurch, New Zealand?
The campus at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch is beautiful and I love it here. I’ve gotten some very clear and helpful lecturers, along with a few that are a bit more challenging. I enjoy meeting new classmates in my classes. The friendly lifestyle is rubbing off on me.

Ryan Schrader stands near the lake in Wanaka New Zealand. Behind him a leafy tree grows right up out of the lake.
“That Wanaka Tree” in Lake Wanaka, New Zealand

Why did you choose New Zealand?
I chose New Zealand after A LOT of research over places to go. It’s an adventurous island nation that speaks English! There were so many choices, but looking back on it, I really feel like I made the right choice. I also figured if I was going to be very far away from home, I might as well get far away as possible! A lot of encouragement came from fellow Michigan Tech students Jake Voss, and also Brady Severt whose photo on Roys Peak Track in Wanaka, New Zealand was used on the cover of University of Canterbury Study Abroad brochure.

What was it like living in Christchurch?
Christchurch is a big city of around 400,000 people, but I live west of the city in a smaller area. I can get some of the big city feel if I go downtown but can easily travel around New Zealand and get a small town feel in many places.

Ryan Schrader at the side of a winding mountain road, pointing at the mountain range in the background. His hand is curved and appears to touch the tip of the mountain.
Journey to Mt. Cook, New Zealand

What was the best part of the experience?
Optimistically speaking, I believe my best experience might not have happened yet, since I’m still abroad! So far, though, my favorite experience has been a trip through Fjiordland, with its vast amount of wildlife and breathtaking views!

What was the most challenging part of the experience?
Okay, I’ll just admit it—my greatest challenge is finding a balance between my study time, and goofing off time! My goal is to make most out of the free time I have in order to pack in as much exposure to this diverse country as I possibly can!

Did you visit any other cities and countries?
I’ve traveled over to Oz (Australia) and it was really special. I’m planning on going to the Cook Islands, as well. In New Zealand, I’ve traveled well around the South Island and made a mark along the North Island.

What are your plans for this summer?
I’m not quite sure yet! I don’t get back until June 24th. I am adamantly looking for a position in Michigan—either around Ludington, Houghton or Detroit—that will help me with finances. I’m planning to graduate next spring. From there I’ll try to find a design role with my mechanical engineering degree.