As an Engineering student, it was important to me that my study abroad program was centered around a course that would fit into my degree plan and offer me the opportunity to further my career network. IFSA-Butler’s program at Ulster University: Engineering and Irish Studies offered me just that.
Choosing your program
One of the main points that made me choose the program in Northern Ireland was that they were a hands-on program for their Dynamics course. Coming from a university which focuses on theoretical rather than practical, being given the opportunity to design, build, test, and submit a 4-foot by 4-foot catapult for my grade was a great way to test my current engineering skills.
Since studying abroad is part of my graduation requirements, finding a program that would further my college journey was important; while taking a history or language course would have still been an amazing experience, I wanted my program to be centered around engineering. In the fall prior to my study abroad program, the professors that taught the Dynamics and Irish Studies courses came and presented at my university. Immediately I knew that this program was for me. It offered an engineering course, a multicultural course, and was in a country that I have always been interested in and hope to work in one day: Northern Ireland.
Additionally, because of the engineering program I chose, one of the many excursions included in the program was a visit to a health and engineering research firm. During the tour, I learned about how professionals from a wide range of backgrounds can come together to work on a project for the betterment of the company and the world. Without IFSA-Butler’s Engineering and Irish Studies, I would not have had this learning opportunity.
Making sure the program fits you
Another opportunity that I would not have had without my time abroad was being able to research regions and companies in my chosen career path as a petroleum engineering student. As someone who wishes to work internationally, finding a program that was offered in a region where I hope to work gave me the opportunity to ask my professors what they thought of regional companies and get advice on how to be successful working abroad in the future. At the start of my journey to studying abroad, once I had heard about my program’s location, IFSA-Butler’s Engineering and Irish Studies was even more perfect for me. I have always been interested in the culture and history of Northern Ireland, and the surrounding countries with Viking history, paired with engineering, and a location I am interested in for my career path meant that this program fit me.
As a result of my time abroad, my career path has not changed but my viewpoint definitely has. Prior to summer 2017, I had never traveled outside of the continental United States, so I learned about the ins and outs of traveling alone internationally. I also learned that while I would still love to live and work in Ireland, or the surrounding countries, I currently would not be a good fit in some other places. It is important to note while studying abroad what types of things you connect with and what can help to better your future.
Make the most out of being abroad
Making the most out of being abroad was a large goal of mine as well as learning the offered courses. To achieve my goal, I looked for returning flights with long layovers that would place me near potential companies to give me time to interview with that company, or give me a bit of time to see the surrounding areas. As an engineering student who is interested in Iceland’s Deep Drilling Geothermal Project, I used a free three-day layover to travel to Iceland and see where the project was taking place and if I could see myself settling down in the country. If you can make a plan to see somewhere that means something to you, a layover is the way to do it since it will typically be financially easier than purchasing a flight there, and then to another location.
Above all, the most important aspect of being a STEM student studying abroad is to learn and focus on the courses you are taking, but be sure to have solid and realistic goals and expectations when going abroad. This adventure is meant to help you grow as a person and a STEM student, so make the most of it.
Emily Loudenback is a petroleum engineering student at Texas Tech University and studied abroad with IFSA-Butler in Summer 2017 on the Engineering and Irish Studies program in Ireland. She was a First-Generation College Student Writer for IFSA-Butler through the First Generation College Student Program.