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Promoting Undergraduate International Experiences

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Promoting Undergraduate International Experiences

As academia recognizes that global perspective is crucial in today’s workplace, Virginia Tech is stepping up its emphasis on international experience at the undergraduate level. The College of Engineering’s strategic plan for the next six years calls for creating new international study and work experiences to grow the study abroad participation to at least 260 graduate and undergraduate students a year.

“Right now our goal is to have at least 15 percent of all undergraduate students getting some international experience before they graduate,” said Sedki Riad, director of international programs for the College of Engineering. “All undergraduate programs will have at least one pre-approved study abroad option that enables students to study abroad for at least one semester or summer without delayed graduation. At some future date, we’d like to see all our undergraduate students having international experience before graduation.”

At present, Tech has partnered with Darmstadt University of Technology in Germany for summer school and engineering research internships. At Darmstadt, students participate in German language and cultural studies courses, which include seminars, excursions, and visits to major industrial companies. Because Virginia Tech is a partner institution, Tech engineering students receive first-priority admission to the small, selective program.

Another formalized Virginia Tech partnership is an intensive four-week, summer study in robotics at the Arab Academy of Science and Technology in Egypt (the site of Tech’s graduate VT-MENA program). Students learn about both the fundamentals of robotic systems through developing a small robot and Egyptian culture at the Alexandria, Egypt campus.

The college is working on generating more formal programs while utilizing existing programs developed by other institutions and corporations around the globe, Riad says. “Our students are somewhat limited by their ability to speak another language. We have work and study programs for them in Europe, Australia, and all around the world, but some are more formalized than others,” he said. “I’m working on finding experiences especially geared for Virginia Tech’s academic specialties.”

ECE major Christopher Lake and 12 other Virginia Tech engineering students have been placed in paid international internships through IAESTE (International Association for the Exchange of Students for Technical Experience), an organization dedicated to developing global skills in tomorrow’s technical leaders through international work and study experiences. Lake worked for STIWA in Attnang-Puchheim, Oberostereich, testing motors and designing an operating system for a handheld device.

—Su Clauson-Wicker