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Four IE students reflect on Study Abroad

Scott Wong and Rafael Salcedo teaching English to a class of Chinese 4th graders
Scott Wong and Rafael Salcedo teaching English to a class of
Chinese 4th graders
Rafael Salcedo hiking the Great Wall with Purdue spirit
Rafael Salcedo hiking the Great Wall
- with Purdue spirit!
Scott Wong with from the Bund in Shanghai, China
Scott Wong with view from the Bund
in Shanghai, China
Megan Nowak diving the Great Barrier Reef
Megan Nowak diving the
Great Barrier Reef, Australia
Ishan Sharma atop Trolltunga Rock, Norway
Ishan Sharma atop
Trolltunga Rock, Norway
Four undergraduate IE students spent the first six months of 2016 studying in other countries as part of the IE Study Abroad program.

Rafael Salcedo and Scott Wong studied at Shanghai Jiao Tong University in China, from January to June, the same time period that Ishan Sharma spent at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden. Megan Nowak studied at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, from February to June. All four found their experiences valuable in many ways.

Salcedo said that studying abroad made him a stronger, more confident student. “When you struggle with broken Chinese and gesturing to communicate, you can do anything. You learn to approach any situation fearlessly.”

Wong developed a better work ethic, gained more self-confidence, started learning a new language, and made many lifetime connections.

Nowak was able to take courses she couldn’t take here and saw different teaching styles. Her university “stresses group work over exams, so I got to practice working in a group setting a lot,” she said. She also began to understand other cultures and communication styles.

Sharma also appreciated the different education perspective. “The material has helped me become a better engineer, leader, thinker, and project manager,” he said. “The emphasis they place on individual expression and ideation is fantastic.”

All four enjoyed traveling and making friends from other cultures. Sharma said it felt “like you started a new life for the sole purpose of learning and exploring things you’ve never seen before”. Nowak described the best part of studying abroad as “diving into the culture [there] and seeing a very different way of living”.

Of course, some parts were hard, such as understanding and accepting how things were done, not being in control, homesickness, and even getting settled in and oriented. And then – after adjusting to all the newness and making friends – having to leave.

What advice do these four have for other IE students who are considering studying abroad? “Just go for it! Everyone is always afraid of missing out on friends and another semester at Purdue, but you’ll miss more passing up on an opportunity to go abroad,” said Salcedo. “It’s hard to step out of your comfort zone, but if you make yourself vulnerable, talk to people, and just walk everywhere, your study abroad experience will be worthwhile.”

“Be prepared to study hard in China because it is going to be challenging. Professors expect a high level of conceptual understanding from you,” added Wong. “Bring some of your favorite American snacks because it is likely that you won’t find them.”

“Do all you can to get in to the culture,” advised Nowak. “It may be more comfortable to hang out with people you know from Purdue or people from the States, but really try to get to know the locals so they can show you all of the hidden gems of their country.”

“The freedom to explore a new country, as well as discovering yourself, will not be something you regret. It will be something you carry with you for your entire future,” stated Sharma. “It was one of the most enjoyable and happiest times of my entire life.”

Nowak summed up her study abroad experience in this way: “Studying abroad is the most wonderful experience I have ever had and I highly encourage everybody to do it. It may seem scary moving to a new country for a semester, but before you know it, it will feel like your new home.”

The School of Industrial Engineering offers a number of IE Study Abroad experiences. Over 1200 Purdue students - more than ever before - are expected to take advantage of Purdue Study Abroad opportunities this summer. Study Abroad is one of the 10 Purdue Moves strategic initiatives.

Writer: DeEtte Starr, starrd@purdue.edu