Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Engineers and Study Abroad!

Myth: Engineers Can't go abroad and Graduate on Time
Truth: YES they Can!

Hey! My name is Megan and I'm a third year undergrad studying mechanical engineering at Penn. Since the time I was in high school, I couldn't wait to spend one of my college semesters abroad. I loved to travel and had been very lucky to visit Europe and South America during high school. When the time came three years later to apply to a study abroad program, I realized that the list of options for engineering students was sadly very short. However, I did have several options, and after much consideration, I decided to go to an English speaking country. At the beginning of my fall semester junior year, I landed in Glasgow, Scotland- a city that was entirely foreign to me in a country that I had visited only once before.

Starting from international student orientation week and continuing through the rest of the semester, I built myself a network of friends and peers from all over Europe and the world. Glasgow University has a huge population of European exchange students, so about half of my friends were European and the rest were Americans, New Zealanders, and Canadians. With an incredibly light work load and fewer class hours, I had more free time than I had had during my previous four semesters at Penn combined! Although the UK university system emphasized self-study compared to class hours, Penn had totally prepared me for all the academic challenges that I faced during my time there. With all of our new free time, my friends and I traveled all over Scotland, Barcelona, Ireland, London, Amsterdam and Munich. We cooked dinners every week, the Scots aren't known for their food (rightfully so!), and explored the different neighborhoods and the city center of Glasgow. The city was formerly an old industrial ship-building city that is in the midst of an economic and cultural revival. As such, it is home to some of the most popular dance clubs and theaters in the UK. The Glaswegian people I met were so friendly too. Every bus driver and professor was willing to help, but the accent definitely took some time to get used to!

Taking a semester off from Penn to study abroad was one of the best experiences of my four years of college. I learned invaluable insight about myself and about the world--and I'm right on track with courses to graduate on time. If you get the chance to study abroad, it's well worth the effort, believe me.

Photo credit: Author in front of University Tower of Glasgow University


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