Category: Study Abroad

Engineering Study Abroad: Cosmo Trikes

While traveling abroad during the pandemic may seem difficult to some, others navigate this landscape with relative ease. Especially if you’ve got the attitude of Cosmo Trikes, an electrical engineering student at Michigan Tech. Challenges and adversity are no stranger to Trikes, but when presented the opportunity to study abroad nothing could have stopped him!

Cosmo Holding a Husky Flag
Cosmo Trikes

A Bit About Cosmo Trikes

In a Michigan Tech “Humans of Tech” interview last year, Trikes describes himself like this: “A lot of people say I bring a good energy to places. I’m excited about life and I love to help. I want to make things better, to learn as much as I can. I try to be remembered and get involved anywhere I go.” His mindset of sticking to his values–even in times of uncertainty–and his moral character both speak volumes for the person he is.

How did you get interested in Studying Abroad?

When I first visited Michigan Tech as a prospective student, I went to a study abroad info session, probably at the encouragement of my mother who did a study abroad in Zimbabwe as an undergrad. Before I started college, I had already traveled to Iceland, Africa, the Bahamas, and across the US. So I knew I wanted to continue traveling. I also knew that it was a rare opportunity to travel abroad for three months in the way you can while studying abroad. Being immersed in a college environment, taking a light course load, traveling around wherever and whenever. It can’t be done at any other time in your life.

“It’s easy to be optimistic and positive when things are going well. But when things go awry, when we encounter obstacles, only then is when we truly have an opportunity to demonstrate the strength of our virtues.”

Cosmo Trikes
Cosmo in Front of Curtin University
In Perth at Curtin University

Where did you study and live?

I attended Curtin University, an Australian public research university located in Bentley, Perth, in Western Australia. I lived in a flat neighborhood. A flat is basically an apartment. The neighborhood was a gated community, with a front desk building, and common areas where everyone could get together. Each building was three stories tall, and each level was a flat that housed six people. It was great to be surrounded by a community like that! Nearby there was a little mall with a market and a few other shops. I think I might have loved that the most. It was convenient to simply walk over and get groceries, especially since I didn’t have a car.

Why did you choose Australia? 

Since my second year started, I had a plan. I would go to a career fair, get a co-op, work for the summer and fall, and instead of coming back to MTU in the winter, I would study abroad and then return for the following school year. Even though I got injured, I still followed through with my plan. I never considered where I would go until the time came to choose. I wanted somewhere warm, of course, and somewhere accessible. Turns out Australia was the place to go. And even though Australia doesn’t have an equivalent to the American Disabilities Act (ADA) that the US has, it was actually more accessible than Michigan Tech, which made my time with friends and exploring a lot of fun!

What was your academic experience like in Australia? 

Cosmo and Other Study Abroad Students in their living space.
With his flatmates and friends in Bentley

Academically speaking, I learned a lot but at the same time I didn’t. A few weeks after I arrived in Australia the COVID-19 lockdown first began. I had hardly started my courses when they were switched to online. We all got called back to Michigan Tech. 

First, Curtin University is enormous, in terms of both campus and student body size. The entire university and facilities were so modern, with automatic doors throughout and so many cool things integrated into the campus that I spent many days just exploring. Even before the pandemic, the lectures were already being recorded with a camera in the back of the class. As a result, my transition to remote learning was not as hard, but in regard to the missing out on the labs–the lack of a learning environment, and enduring the isolation–it was a struggle. The experience shrunk from thousands of students for me to meet and interact with, to pretty much just me. I took engineering classes, and they went well. The teaching style in Australia was very different and I liked it a lot. I didn’t learn as much as I would have back at Tech, but that also wasn’t my only focus. While there, exploring and traveling were also in the forefront of my mind!

Cosmo Skydiving.
Skydiving in Australia!

What was the best part of the experience?

Well I made a lot of friends, explored as much as I could, and read a lot, but I think what I came away with the most was a lot of personal growth. With the short time we isolated, I had a lot of time for introspection. I started my blog during that time, and every Sunday I would write a multiple page summary of the past week with a lot of detail. I sent it out to a select few people as a weekly email to keep them updated on what I did and how I felt. 

What was the most challenging part of the experience?

Definitely the most challenging part of any traveling or just anything in general is using a wheelchair. Although the campus was really accessible, there were a lot of hills and many things I couldn’t do, like going sand surfing, for example. Luckily I had my friends to help out a bit, so I still did a lot, regardless.

Did you visit any other cities or countries?

Perth, Australia is one of the most remote locations in the world. While there, I was maybe going to travel to Bali or somewhere similar, but then COVID struck. Perth does have other cities nearby, such as Fremantle and some others, but I visited Rottnest Island off the nearby coast where I went skydiving! It was a small island with a lot of great views, and a ton of fun wierd little animals called quokkas.

Cosmo with a quokka.
Cosmo with a quokka.

When will you graduate, and what are your plans for the future?

I will graduate at the end of April 2022. After that I’ll be going to Colorado to work as a software engineer for Oracle. I found that job through Disability:IN, when I joined one of their programs.

Engineering Study Abroad: Estefanio Kesto

“Being present and living in the now” is the motto Estefanio Kesto lives by, and his goals are ever changing, expanding, and adapting as life takes him in new directions.

A bit about Estefanio Kesto

Estafanio on a boat with the Norweigan flag hanging above him.
On a boat in the fjords of Norway

Estefanio Kesto is an electrical engineering student at Michigan Tech with a focus on Photonics—the study of light detection, manipulation, and generation. He’s involved in SPIE, the International Society for Optics and Photonics, as well as performing experimental research under the guidance of Professor Miguel Levy in the Department of Physics. Kesto is also involved in Tau Beta Pi, the Engineering Honor Society and Eta Kappa Nu, the honor society of IEEE. He describes himself as an outdoorsman and an avid cyclist, as well. “If you approach me with any activities that involve the outdoors, then you can count me in!”

How did you get interested in Studying Abroad?

Many engineering students don’t seem to take the opportunity to study abroad. This is generally due to the misconception among them that transferring the course credits can be very involved and difficult. Additionally, many students are intimidated by the financial aspects. I also hesitated due to both of these things, which postponed my own study abroad endeavor. I eventually attended a meeting hosted by Vienna Leonarduzzi, then Michigan Tech’s study abroad coordinator. She discussed many options to overcome these obstacles.

The process of studying abroad looks hefty from the outside, but once you get more involved, you quickly learn that there are not only many options for engineering coursework to transfer into your degree program, but also options for merit and need-based scholarships to alleviate the potential financial burden.

How did you end up funding your trip?

In my case, I was privileged to be supported by the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship. The Gilman scholarship gives underrepresented individuals higher priority when it comes to financial support. As it turns out, engineering students are considered to be underrepresented when it comes to studying abroad! Use this fact to your advantage when writing scholarship essays for funding. Additionally, there may be university-wide study abroad scholarships available to relieve some of the financial burden. In any case, be sure to discuss your funding options with the study abroad coordinator at Michigan Tech before jumping to conclusions. For me, it was the Gilman program that truly enabled me to study abroad. I even discovered post-study abroad incentives that come with being a Gilman alum! 

Estafanio Kesto standing near a chalkboard with many digits of Pi.
Estefanio Kesto, next to digits of Pi in the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology (Skoltech), in the Skolkovo District of Moscow

I also discovered that the process of transferring courses taken abroad is significantly easier when done earlier in your degree program. So, my recommendation would be to study abroad as early in your degree program as possible! Studying abroad, say, as a freshman or sophomore, gives you more options in choosing your host country, too. This is because general education, free electives, and lower-level engineering courses are much easier to be replaced with study abroad courses, compared to senior level classes.

This was not the case for me, though. I first began to search for study abroad programs that would satisfy course requirements in the final year of my undergraduate studies. As a result, it quickly became discouraging—until Vienna informed me that courses offered through the European Project Semester (EPS) program can be used to satisfy the engineering senior design requirements for my electrical engineering degree. So, if you find yourself in my shoes, find a European Project Semester program in a host country of your liking and jump on it!

Where did you study and live?

I lived in the town of Vaasa, which is on the southwest coast of Finland, located on the Gulf of Bothnia. Vaasa was not what I was expecting. It turned out to be one of the largest Swedish speaking towns in Finland (the second language in Finland is Swedish). Only 6 percent of the Finnish population speaks Swedish, but 50 percent of the people in Vaasa speak Swedish. This caught me off guard, as I was expecting a full Finnish-speaking town.  

Why did you choose Finland?

There is a strong Finnish heritage presence in the Keweenaw, where Michigan Tech is located. It inspired me to want to better understand who the Finnish people are, and in my opinion, there’s no better way to do that than fully immersing yourself in the culture of their home country, Finland!

Estafanio next to Novia University logo.
At the University of Novia

What was your academic experience like in Finland?

European Project Semester (EPS) is a collaborative learning program for undergraduate students studying any of the sciences, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). There are 19 host institutions across 13 countries that make up this program today. It’s project-based, with projects often sponsored by companies in industry. This gives students the opportunity to apply their theoretical studies in the real working world. 

Students work in multinational, interdisciplinary teams of three to six students. At the beginning of the semester, EPS presents the engineering projects, and students choose their preferences. My project relied heavily on the internet of things (IoT), automation, and other aspects of software/mechanical/electrical engineering.

The main objective of my collaborative project was to develop an IoT platform to facilitate the integration of different-branded smart devices in an automated living environment for disabled or elderly individuals, all within one intuitive user-interface. For example, products coming from Samsung, LG, Nest, and other electronic brands all have their own app. Our task was to integrate them all into one user-friendly app to control this automated living environment. It turns out the IoT could easily realize this problem. In addition to successfully creating an intuitive user-interface, my team and I further innovated the automated living environment by taking devices which were not considered ‘smart’ devices (i.e., had no connectivity capability) and turned them into ‘smart’ devices with the help of an ESP32 which is a microcontroller with Wi-Fi capabilities.

The experience was absolutely phenomenal. The university I attended, Yrkeshögskolan Novia (Novia University of Applied Sciences), and the faculty who guided my team, went above and beyond in providing my team with the resources and guidance to accomplish the task at hand. Additionally, working in a multi-cultural and interdisciplinary team of engineers allowed me to better understand how different cultures approach academia, work, and day-to-day life.

Estafanio with his housemates.
With housemates in Yrkeshögskolan Novia, Finland

What was the best part of the experience?

Living in a housing accommodation full of exchange students from all over the world! This did have its pros and cons, though. The biggest pro was the gaining of mutual cultural understanding from a diverse cohort of exchange students. The biggest con was that there was only one Finnish student, and I had been searching for native Finnish students to ‘adopt’ me into their cultural traditions. The ‘adoption’ was quite difficult considering I wasn’t able to socialize with Finnish students in my everyday life.

What was the most challenging part of the experience?

If you think it’s dark and cold here in the Keweenaw, you’re mistaken, because Finland beats the Keweenaw in that respect. The cold wasn’t so challenging, but the lack of winter daylight, at least in comparison to the Keweenaw, was the most challenging thing for me. The sun would start to rise around 10am and set by 4pm. I found it tough to cope. It’s difficult for me to wrap my head around how Finland has consecutively been rated the happiest country in the world in spite of the lack of daylight they receive.

Did you visit any other cities or countries?

When you study abroad, you shouldn’t stay in your college town for the entire duration of your studies. This would make it very difficult to gain sufficient mutual understanding of your host culture. Luckily, my international coordinator at Yrkeshögskolan Novia encouraged exchange students to travel with the Erasmus Student Network (ESN) as much as possible. ESN subsidizes travels for exchange students around the EU, which makes the cost of traveling significantly cheaper than traveling on your own. I visited Oulu, Tampere, Turku, and Helsinki which are all cities within Finland. Outside of Finland I visited Norway, Sweden, Germany, Austria, and France. Additionally, Professor Levy organized an opportunity for me to visit the Russian Quantum Center in the Skolkovo district of Moscow, where I was able to meet some of our collaborators and observe their experimental techniques.

When will you graduate, and what are your plans for the future?

Estafanio in front of St. Basil's Cathedral
In front of St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow

Life changes, and you must be present in the now to adapt. Being present, and in the moment, allows you to adjust your professional goals accordingly. A strict, long-term professional goal that isn’t malleable can quickly deteriorate, due to challenges life throws at you. In turn, not meeting that goal within your perceived and specified timeframe can result in self-discouragement. 

The motto that best describes and dictates where I find myself in life is ‘being present and living in the now.’ In other words, I don’t have a strict long-term goal in regard to where I want to be in my professional life at any certain time. My professional goals change and will change in proportion to what’s happening now.

I do have an idea of where I want to be. I’d like to be working as a professor, instructing the next generation of scientists and engineers—or I’d like to work as a research scientist, making contributions that impact our society even more broadly. This is by no means a strict goal that I’m holding over my head. 

As for my post-baccalaureate plans, I’ve been admitted into a doctoral program in the University of Michigan’s Department of Physics, where I will be continuing my research studies within the optical sciences.

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.

 

Engineering Study Abroad: Kendall Welling ’20, València, Spain

Michigan Tech Civil Engineering student Kendall Witting, in Spain
Michigan Tech Civil Engineering student Kendall Welling, in Spain

Kendall Welling just completed her third year of civil engineering studies with a spectacular semester abroad at La Universidad Politècnica de València (UPV) in Valencia, Spain. She enrolled in a program offered by the University Studies Abroad Consortium (USAC): “Valencia: Spanish Language, Culture, and STEM”.

Welling shares her experience, below—and encourages other STEM students to give Study Abroad a try!

First, please tell us a bit about yourself.
At Michigan Tech, I’ve been an orientation team leader for incoming students and an ExSEL peer mentor through the Michigan Tech Waino Wahtera Center for Student Success.  I’m also a member of the tennis club!

In addition to my civil engineering studies I am pursuing two minors—one in Spanish and another in Global Community Development Partnerships (IMGC). My IMGC minor is paired with my participation in the Peace Corps Prep program offered through Michigan Tech’s Pavlis Honors College. I’m also involved in Engineers Without Borders (EWB).  I aspire to become an EWB professional mentor once I gain more civil engineering experience.

How did you get interested in Studying Abroad?
In a word: Spanish. I sought an opportunity to practice my Spanish language skills while coming to know a new place and new people by means of a second language.

What was your academic experience like at the La Universidad Politècnica de València?
Great! I was able to take thermodynamics and professional communication courses at UPV, both which counted toward my civil engineering degree requirements. I found them to be similar to courses I have taken at Michigan Tech, but with a greater emphasis on the derivation of equations.

The study abroad program at La Universidad Politècnica de València caters to STEM students, offering more STEM courses than many other study abroad programs and destinations. If you are a STEM student looking to study abroad, I encourage you to investigate thoroughly, though. I did have to plan ahead to allow for my semester abroad without adding extra time to my college career.

I also took a Spanish language course, as well a windsurfing course and a dance course to fulfill some of my co-curricular course requirements at Michigan Tech. All these courses were taught in Spanish, by native speakers.

Las Fallas “ninot” on display in Valencia, Spain

What was it like living in València?
Valencia is far larger than Houghton and my hometown, combined. It’s the third largest city in Spain. But I loved it! Valencia has a well established public transportation system, so getting around the city wasn’t too difficult. And Valencia is located on the Mediterranean Sea, so you are never far from the beach. There is also a nice balance of new and old architecture between the modern City of Arts and Sciences, and the older city center.

Studying in Valencia during a spring semester also allowed me to experience Las Fallas, an amazing festival that takes over the city. I would encourage other students looking to study abroad to research their ideal host city’s popular celebrations. Be sure to study there during the corresponding semester, if at all possible.

Kendall Welling (left) with her host family--a mother and teenage daughter--in Valencia, Spain
Kendall Welling (right) with her host family in Valencia, Spain

What was the best part of the experience?
The Spanish! I have always enjoyed learning Spanish and I love meeting new people, so combining the two by living in a place where the majority of the people spoke Spanish was a wonderful experience. I met many new friends throughout my travels! I chose to do a homestay, so I lived with a Spanish family. It was a wonderful experience getting to know my host family, and I look forward to returning to Valencia to visit them someday.

What was the most challenging part of the experience?
Planning my study abroad experience was probably the most complex part of all. But don’t let it deter you. I’m actually looking to go abroad again next year, which means I’ll essentially be starting over with the planning process myself!

I studied abroad through University Studies Abroad Consortium. The USAC study abroad office in Spain was extremely helpful and always able to point me in the right direction, so that I was able to thoroughly enjoy my time once I got there.

Kendall Welling walking with a dog down a street in Slovakia
Exploring in Slovakia

Ruins of a buiding in Grenada, showing an open doorway
Hiking in Grenada, Spain

Did you visit any other cities and countries?
I explored Spain, including Madrid, Cuenca, Toledo, Granada, Sevilla, Cordoba, Barcelona, and Alicante. Within Europe, I also visited Italy, Morocco, France, Belgium, Poland, Slovakia, and Austria!

What are your plans for this summer?
I’ll be interning with Owen Ames Kimball, a construction company in Grand Rapids, Michigan, working as an assistant superintendent. Then, at the end of the summer, I will be traveling to Panama to participate in i-Design, the International Senior Design program of Michigan Tech’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

Engineering Study Abroad: Amber Kauppila ’19, Vaasa, Finland

Michigan Tech Environmental Engineering student Amber Kauppila in Vaasa, Finland stands at the shore of Bothnia Bay in Vaasa, Finland
Michigan Tech Environmental Engineering student Amber Kauppila in Vaasa, Finland

As an engineer-to-be, Amber Kauppila wanted to learn how to work effectively in a diverse setting, and how to persevere in isolating and challenging circumstances. She enrolled in European Project Semester (EPS) for the spring of 2019 in Vaasa, Finland, attending Novia University of Applied Sciences. She shares her experience, below, in hopes of inspiring others to give Study Abroad a try!

First, please tell us a bit about yourself.
I love to do anything outdoors—running, hiking, kayaking, mountain biking, snowboarding, fishing, and camping. I also enjoy doing yoga, reading, and playing the guitar.

Never stop learning, and go home at the end of the day with a sense of purpose—those are my professional goals. Create a positive environmental change to the planet, and the world we live in—that is my dream. In fact, I chose environmental engineering because I believe it will enable me to make the most positive difference to the environment.

How did you get interested in Studying Abroad?
A part of me always wanted to travel the world, whether it was through a study abroad program or after graduation sometime, some way. How I ended up deciding on the European Project Semester (EPS) program was a magically unplanned, twist of events.

I found out about the EPS program from my CEE academic advisor at Michigan Tech, Julie Ross. I had met with her to discuss possible options about my upcoming graduation. I transferred to Michigan Tech my sophomore year. Consequently I had a few gaps in my flowchart. I wouldn’t have enough classes in my schedule to be a full-time student for my last three semesters. I was considering either pursuing the accelerated master’s program at Michigan Tech, or possibly studying abroad. As Julie and I were weighing my options, I told her of my interest in sustainable waste management and green energy. I also told her of my inner longing to travel. It had always been a dream of mine to go to Finland. My great grandparents were 100 percent Finnish and immigrated from Finland to the US through Ellis Island in the early 1900s. A huge part of my nationality and heritage is predominantly Finnish. Julie told me about the EPS program in Finland, and everything just seemed to fall into place.

I learned that EPS projects at Novia University of Applied Sciences in Finland, in particular, are focused on renewable energy, energy saving, sustainability, and clean technology. Even better, enrollment in EPS would fulfill my required senior design credit, as well as my project elective credits, all required in order to graduate! In that moment, it seemed too crazy how everything was working out so smoothly. It was really meant to be. Leaving the meeting that day, I was determined I would go to Finland for the EPS program.

Not only would this program educate and teach me new technical, social, and cross-cultural skills relevant to my engineering field, I’d get to study for four months abroad and finish out my education in my great grandparents’ native country!

Amber Kauppila and the Floating Solar Panel Park design team at Novia University of Applied Sciences in Vaasa, Finland. One student holds a small solar panel.
Amber Kauppila (second from left) and the Floating Solar Panel Park design team at Novia University of Applied Sciences in Vaasa, Finland

What was your academic experience like in Vaasa, Finland?
I really liked the structure of the EPS program. For the first few weeks, it focused on short courses (Team Building, Project Management, English and Cross-Cultural Communication, Swedish, and Ecodesign and Circular Economy). I found all the faculty very passionate about their subjects. I really enjoyed the energy they had in class. My favorite course was Ecodesign and Circular Economy taught by a guest professor, Karine van Doorsselaer, from the University of Antwerp. Her course was unique and inspiring to me as a young engineer. Professor Doorsselaer’s course has touched me so much, in fact, I have reached out to the chair of my own Civil and Environmental Engineering department at Michigan Tech, in hopes that this course, or a related course, could become part of the curriculum.

The main content of the EPS semester, however, is a project performed as part of a multinational, multidisciplinary team of five students. Our team set out to determine and verify the feasibility of floating solar panel technology in Finland. We designed and built a floating solar panel  prototype that was tested in different locations in Vaasa, Finland. We estimated the yearly power output and efficiency of the panels in regard to interested parties, such as energy companies and other countries with low solar energy potential. We built upon these concepts throughout the semester with research, simulation, and testing. We wrote midterm and final reports detailing all work, results, conclusions, and future work, presenting to fellow EPS students, supervisors, and teachers.

Erasmus Student Network (ESN) gathers international exchange students and Finns in Vaasa, Finland. Shown here on the snowy beach.
Erasmus Student Network (ESN) gathers international exchange students and Finns in Vaasa, Finland

Why did you choose Vaasa, Finland?
If I was to ever do a study abroad, I always told myself I would choose Finland. Plus, I knew it would be one of the best ways I would ever get to truly explore the country, learn the culture, and get to know the Finnish people and their values, other than by permanently moving there.

What was it like living in Vaasa?
Vaasa is a bigger city with a population of about 67,000 people. However, the city does not appear to be quite that large, as it is very spread out. Vaasa is right on the Bothnia Bay which made for great sunsets (though nothing compares to Lake Superior). Another unique fact about Vaasa, is that the city is very bilingual with 70 percent of people speaking Finnish and 30 percent Swedish. For this reason, the EPS program incorporates a “Survival Swedish” course into the curriculum.

I lived in an apartment with an exchange student from France who was studying at a different university in Vaasa. The location of the apartment was great—only a 30-minute walk to the city center and the university. Each apartment unit also had a sauna for resident use, which was definitely my favorite part about the place! In addition, the apartment complex was occupied mostly by other exchange students making it very easy to meet new people and make new friends.

The Finnish winter season was not as great as I had hoped. Finland is very flat, so it’s not a big surprise that there aren’t many ski hills. It was disappointing not to be able to snowboard or do any of the winter sports that I love. It was also hard to obtain a gym membership once I arrived without a Finnish bank account, so my physical activities were limited in the beginning of my studies. The months of late March through May were my favorite because it was warmer and there was more ability to do things outside, and some fun events everyone was able to attend.

Green and pale purple northern lights in the night sky in Finland
Northern Lights in Finland

Finland also experiences a natural phenomenon what is called the midnight sun—24/7 hours of sunlight for over 2 months in the summertime—which I was able to begin to experience before leaving. When I had left Finland, night never got fully dark and the sun didn’t set until after 10:30 PM. I still don’t understand how the Finns are able to get any sleep!

One of my favorite places to go, and will be the most missed, was a coffee shop in the heart of Vaasa called Sweet Vaasa. I am not much of a sweet person, but I will miss their coffee, salmon wraps, and delicious cakes!

Amber does a yoga sign in front of a large blue lettered sign reading PORTO in Porto, Portugal
In Porto, Portugal

What was the best part of the experience?
My favorite part of my study abroad was all the wonderful opportunities to travel! The EPS program is set up to enable students to travel as long as they work hard and complete all work expected of them. In addition I joined the Erasmus Student Network (ESN) association of Vaasa that hosts various events and adventure trips to bring exchange students and the Finns closer together. ESN gave me many valuable memories, new friends, and experiences, an important part of an exchange student’s experience in Finland.

Lastly, thanks to Europe and its amazing transportation system I was able to travel cheap and easily. For my first time in Europe, I am very pleased that I have gotten to explore most of Finland, and have traveled to Portugal, Estonia, Norway, Budapest, and Sweden!

What was the most challenging part of the experience?
The initial culture shock was challenging. For me specifically, my start in Finland was very rocky. My flight to Finland got pushed back three days later than planned when the polar vortex hitting the Midwest, so my rescheduled flight arrived just one night before the first day of class. The flight ended up being a disaster. After a 15-hour layover in the Stockholm airport I finally arrived at Vaasa, Finland at 1 AM with all my luggage lost.

On the bright side, I was still able to attend my first lecture at 8 AM wearing the same sweater I had worn for 3 days and would continue to wear for 2 more additional days! It’s now all just a funny memory.

Did you visit any other cities in Finland?
Coming to Finland I had an obligation to myself to travel and trek across as much of Finland’s countryside as I could. The Finnish cities I made it to include Tampere, Porvoo, Inari, the Lapland region, Saariselkä, Kajaani, Oulu, Kvarken archipelago, Helsinki, and Turku. I made a special trip to Kajaani as it is my hometown, Marquette’s sister city. It was pretty neat to be able to say I have been there and meet people from the region! Getting to travel was truly the best way to learn the Finnish culture, values and the people.

What are your plans for this summer?
The EPS semester at Novia University of Applied Sciences was my last and final semester—all I needed to complete my degree in environmental engineering. I have a a full-time position now, as an environmental engineer with The Mannik & Smith Group, Inc. I start this summer out of their Hancock, Michigan office. I am very excited to have accepted a position right in the UP, and thrilled to start my future career as an Environmental Engineer!

Les Cayes, Haiti: Engineering World Health

Five engineering students from Michigan Tech’s chapter of Engineering World Health visited Les Cayes, Haiti in May 2018. Making the trip were electrical engineering student Megan Byrne, biomedical engineering students Gina Anderla and Kiaya Caspers, mechanical engineering student Brooke Breen, and materials science and engineering student Anna Isaacson.

Early last summer, five undergraduate engineering students from the Michigan Tech chapter of Engineering World Health took a trip to Les Cayes, Haiti. They were led by Megan Byrne, an electrical engineering undergraduate who organized the trip. They describe the experience as nothing short of life-changing.  

Engineering World Health inspires, educates and empowers young engineers, scientists and medical professionals to use their engineering skills to improve global health in the developing world.  The Michigan Tech chapter of EWH is now in its second year.

Along with Byrne on the trip were biomedical engineering students Gina Anderla and Kiaya Caspers, mechanical engineering students Lidia Johnson and Brooke Breen, and materials science and engineering student Anna Isaacson. To get to Haiti, the Michigan Tech engineering students bagged groceries, plus each spent $1,500 of their own to cover travel costs. A non-profit organization operating in Haiti, HUT Outreach, provided lodging for the Michigan Tech team during their stay, and invited them to help teach STEM subjects to a class of 7th graders in the new HUT Outreach secondary school.

Students in Haiti often drop out of school in the sixth grade, with a diminishing retention rate thereafter. HUT Outreach is trying to break that statistic. During their visit to Les Cayes, the Michigan Tech team tried to change how the high school students viewed education and experienced learning.

Kiaya Caspers teaches students about electrical circuits in Les Cayes, Haiti

“Project-based learning is a concept where students learn some theory, but also how to apply it outside the classroom, in the real world,” says Breen. “Our three day curriculum was focused around allowing Haitian students to think outside the box, being really inquisitive with hands-on learning projects. Our purpose was not only to expose them to a new way of thinking, but also to help HUT Outreach reform a new generation of Haitians who will be catalysts in creating a new way of approaching education in their country. Michigan Tech also gives us these tools and abilities—to be able to really hone in our leadership skills, and innovate ways to help create a better community around us, on a local-to-global spectrum.”

“Our EWH team wanted the students to learn the theory of series and parallel circuits, forces to build bridges, first aid, and how to build water filters,” says Byrne. “This was a challenge, because the students had not been exposed to any of these topics or hands-on learning, and they also spoke a different language.” Byrne is a peer mentor in the Learning with Academic Partners (LEAP) program for first-year engineering students in the Department of Engineering Fundamentals at Michigan Tech, which also provided support for the Haiti trip. Byrne was able put her LEAP experience to good use in Haiti.

“Thanks to our Haitian translator, Wesley, I was able to use a creative twist to help the students gain understanding of the difficult lessons in a way that would be impactful for them,” she says. “As a matter of fact, the lessons we taught in Haiti were very similar to LEAP sessions I have facilitated for first year engineering students at Michigan Tech.”

Using creativity, resourcefulness and critical thinking, EWH students from Michigan Tech repaired a broken oxygen concentrator, one of only two in the public hospital pediatric ward in Les Cayes, Haiti.

The Michigan Tech team also visited a local hospital, where they fixed a broken oxygen concentrator, one of only two in the hospital pediatric ward. They also discovered a potential fire hazard at the hospital—auto headlight bulbs used as replacement bulbs on medical lamps. And they noticed a lack of surge protectors to protect medical equipment during power outages.

The EWH team wants to return to Haiti this year to continue to help prepare the next generation of Haitian students, and provide support to the small community where we served. They also want to provide the woman’s center in Les Cayes with its first portable ultrasound machine.

“We really bonded with the community in Les Cayes,” says  Isaacson. “We want to help in any way possible to make their lives better. I think we can all agree that all the people of Haiti became our second family the minute we stepped into the country.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Study Abroad Scholarships for Engineering Students

Engineering Study Abroad students meet on the street

The Michigan Tech College of Engineering is offering study abroad scholarships in the amount of $2,000 to students who are from the College of Engineering. To be eligible for the scholarship, you must be participating in a Michigan Tech approved study abroad program, a student from College of Engineering, and have a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher.

There will be expectation that scholarship recipients will help promote Michigan Tech study abroad programs after completion of their study abroad program.

Deadlines for scholarship application:

  • Spring 2019: November 15th
  • Summer 2019: March 1st
  • Fall 2019: April 1st

Learn more about this scholarship opportunity.

Apply by November 15 for Spring 2019 consideration.

Taking on Disasters—Before They Happen

Brian Tucker of GeoHazards International (GHI) struggles to hold a heavy adobe brick used in typical buildings in rural Peru. GHI retrofitted an adobe school building in the village of Chocos, Peru, with geomesh, which holds the adobe walls together and greatly improves their earthquake resistance. Credit: Gregory Deierlein, Stanford University
Brian Tucker of GeoHazards International (GHI) struggles to hold a heavy adobe brick used in typical buildings in rural Peru. GHI retrofitted an adobe school building in the village of Chocos, Peru, with geomesh, which holds the adobe walls together and greatly improves their earthquake resistance. Credit: Gregory Deierlein, Stanford University

Next week more than 1,200 first-year students at Michigan Tech will hear from MacArthur Fellow Brian Tucker, founder and president of Geohazards International.

Earthquakes. Tsunamis. Landslides. Storms.

Brian Tucker, founder global non-profit Geohazards International, takes on disasters before they happen. Tucker will present “Lessons Learned in Reducing Natural Disaster Risk in Poor Countries,” this Thursday, September 13 at 6 p.m. in the Rosza Center at Michigan Technological University.

Tucker is a seismologist and MacArthur Fellow whose work focuses on preventing readily avoidable disasters in the world’s poorest countries by using affordable civil engineering practices. He founded GeoHazards International (GHI) in 1991 after recognizing that multi-story residences, schools, hospitals, stores, and offices built from adobe, stone, or unreinforced masonry in many regions of the world are death traps when earthquakes strike.

A consulting professor in the Department of Civil Engineering at Stanford University, Tucker is also a member of the editorial board of the Journal of Earthquake Engineering as well as the board of the World Seismic Safety Initiative. He is a Fellow of the California Academy of Sciences.

In 2001 he was awarded the Gorakha Dakshin Bahu Award for service to the people of Nepal by the King of Nepal. He was named a MacArthur Fellow by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation in 2002. He received the George E. Brown, Jr. Award, from the U.S. Civilian Research and Development Foundation for International Science and Technology Cooperation, in 2007.

Most recently, Tucker was given the Blaisdell Distinguished Alumni Award from Pomona College in 2017 and was named among the 100 Distinguished Alumni of University of California, San Diego. He has also won two “Hammers” from the 2016 and 2017 C.R.A.S.H-B’s World Indoor Rowing Competition.

Tucker received a BA from Pomona College, a PhD from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, and an MA in Public Policy from Harvard University. Tucker served as Principal and Supervising Geologist at the California Division of Mines and Geology from 1982–1991. He founded Geohazards International in 1991.


Michigan Tech’s First-Year Engineering Lecture is a longtime annual tradition for freshmen in the College of Engineering, and now students from the School of Technology, and Department of Computer Science are joining the event.

Please note: space at the venue is at capacity, so the event is not open to the public this year. 

 

 

Study Abroad: Clean, Renewable Energy in Iceland

Zoe Ketola, Systems Engineering undergraduate, studied renewable energy in Iceland this summer.
Zoe Ketola, Systems Engineering undergraduate, studied renewable energy in Iceland this summer.

Zoé Ketola enrolled in the The Green Program, which offers short-term, experiential education about the world’s most pressing issues in sustainable development. Ketola took classes through Reykjavik University School of Energy, and also traveled extensively around Iceland. In Ketola’s group there were about 20 others students, coming from Penn State, University of Michigan, Colorado State, and some Canadian universities, to name a few.

Here at Michigan Tech, Ketola is turning her innovative ideas into a reality with a BSE degree in systems engineeringan engineering degree she can customize to fit her interests. She wants to work on improving and overhauling the US electrical grid—facilitating the transition from traditional to clean energy sources.

Why did you decide to go to Iceland for your study abroad?
Iceland is what fell into my lap. It is considered the world’s renewable energy capital and renewable and clean energy are my passion. I never set out looking to go to Iceland (or anywhere, really) but when the department chair of Engineering Fundamentals, Professor Jon Sticklen, told me about the opportunity I couldn’t think of a better place to learn about what I love. Plus, have you seen pictures of the place? It’s a dream if you like the outdoors.

What was your main project while you were there?
I worked on a project that detailed providing personal solar arrays to impoverished communities within the United States. My group focused on communities in West Virginia and we looked into providing the equipment, doing install, how we would run our company, etc. We did this outside of taking courses on hydropower, geothermal, biofuels, and icelandic culture/history.What did you learn about culture and society in Iceland?
The Icelandic people are very hearty. They are independent and they kind of do their own thing. The most interesting things to me included how independent the children are and just how important keeping their public places clean is. You don’t wear your shoes in homes or the public pools. The pools also have a monitor who makes sure you shower before swimming.

“Iceland changed my life. I know that sounds cliche but I felt like I was losing my fire to make things better. I met people who cared about the same things as me and wanted to save the world. Nothing felt better than that. I can never thank my professor enough for helping me to get there.”

How has studying abroad impacted or changed your outlook?
Well, I’m itching to go back to Iceland and have been since I landed back stateside. I’m now looking more seriously at pursuing a masters dealing with energy, maybe even in Iceland.  Iceland reignited my passion to help the planet and to focus on improving the renewable/clean energy sector.

Through the Green Program, Zoé Ketola studied abroad in Iceland with a strong focus on clean renewable energy
Through the Green Program, Zoé Ketola studied abroad in Iceland with a strong focus on clean renewable energy

What was your most memorable experience?
I hiked a little over 10 miles at Fimmvörðuháls in the Icelandic highlands. When we got to the top of our hike, I couldn’t believe I was there. I was standing in between two glaciers with 20 fantastic people from all over the world and it was so surreal. The world is so big yet we all ended up there together.

Outside of working and studying, what was everyday life like? What did you do for fun?
Mostly spent time outside. I hiked everywhere it feels like, including near the southern coast and in the highlands (where I also camped). We visited hot springs, public pools, mountains, glaciers, and a local hostel where we got to meet a band we had started listening to that morning on the bus. We also visited Iceland’s largest geothermal plant and two hydropower plants, one of which was built in the 1960s.

What are your career goals?

I want to work on improving and overhauling the US electrical grid and facilitating the transition from traditional energy sources to clean energy sources. I don’t know what that means yet because it doesn’t look like anyone is doing exactly what I feel like needs to happen but I’ll figure it out along the way. If I quit every time I wasn’t sure of how to move forward I would never get anything done.