The College of Engineering welcomed international students with open arms and encouraged others to take their college experiences global as a part of last week’s International Week.
Packed full of events aimed at helping students navigate studying abroad, it also focused on connecting international and domestic students. There was a cultural immersion lunch, a study abroad fair and professional workshops to get engineering students thinking beyond the classroom walls.
Cassandra Siela, the director of international programs at the College, hoped the week emboldened them to break out of their comfort zones and try something new.
“It takes a little bit of courage to make the decision to go abroad, or it takes a little bit of courage to make friends with somebody who from first appearance may not have a lot in common with you,” she said. “We hope that they get more comfortable and get inspired to start this process, and they carry it on throughout their years here.”
It was that little bit of courage that influenced senior Allison Weyhrich to study abroad in Italy after her freshman year. She said the experience gave her lifelong friendships and allowed her to grow as a person.
“When I got to Italy, I didn’t know anyone. I didn’t have phone service. I didn’t speak Italian,” she said. “I used to be a kind of rigid personality, and now it’s easier for me to adapt to new situations. I feel very confident after having put myself in an initially difficult situation.”
Now a Study Abroad Ambassador, Weyhrich advocates for all engineers to learn about different cultures and get international experience.
“I think it’s great to see the world,” she said. “If you put yourself out there and come to appreciate other cultures, it really helps you work in a team of diverse engineers.”
Aside from the incredible memories and connections made while studying abroad, participation in these programs makes students better job candidates for future employment. Currently, less than 5 percent of engineering students study abroad.
Study Abroad Manager Lindsey Wisnewski said this can truly set students apart.
“Our students are some of the best and brightest. They all are standout, but something like studying abroad getting on their résumé is really going to help them to develop a lot of those leadership skills and non-technical skills that they need,” she said. “This is something that when employers see it, they’re going to notice that this student is more adventurous. They’re going to see that this is somebody who has initiative.”
International Week brought students together and pushed them to develop themselves outside of engineering.
Cortney Schneider, the College’s international outreach coordinator, wanted students to take away this one important lesson.
“I hope students understand that being a part of the university isn’t just about studying. It’s also about developing your whole self,” she said. “So taking time out to attend things like this, to understand that when you develop your whole self, it actually makes you a better engineer in the long-run.”