Civil Engineering, Student
What interested you in doing an international technical experience?
I first heard about the civil engineering water resources study abroad class during my freshman year and immediately knew that I was going to participate in it. The whole reason I was studying civil engineering was so that I could help people and improve their quality of life, and this looked like a fantastic opportunity to do so while in school. Leading up to the study abroad, I made sure to take any class that I thought would help me solve whatever water problem I was assigned.
What international experience have you had?
In deciding what study abroad to do, I took special interest in going to Dominican Republic, because it involved performing analysis on the feasibility and effects of a dam. I had an internship at a dam the summer before, so when I heard about this project, I thought it would be a good experience.
As the time to leave drew closer, I started getting nervous that I may not have all the engineering expertise needed and that I may not be able to communicate with the little knowledge of Spanish that I had. But I trusted that we would be able to figure out everything we needed to and took comfort in the fact that we had someone in our group who spoke Spanish.
When we arrived in Dominican Republic we were warmly greeted. I was amazed at the hospitality we received and how happy everyone at INDHRI was to meet us. It was evident how grateful they were for our volunteering to travel and do these studies for them.
The next day we got to work. We were able to do a large chunk of analysis within that first day and it was evident how impressed our mentor was. She showed us her Master’s project, which was almost exactly the same project as we were doing for this class. However, we had the tools to do it in a few months and her project took her over a year due to lack of tools.
We traveled to the site of our potential dam location where we got to talk to people who lived and farmed there and hear about the flooding that occurs during hurricanes. The next day we presented our initial analysis to leaders of various organizations for their country. We also got to go to a concert, have dinner with the person in charge of water for the country, dance, go to the beach, jump off and slide down waterfalls, go to church and a fireside and have fun with each other and the people we met.
After returning home to the states, we spent a few months finishing the analysis and preparing to present our results to our counterparts in Dominican Republic. As the final for our class, we had a video conference and shared our results and answered questions.
What have you learned through your experience in engineering?
Being a woman in engineering, I was excited to see how many women there were working in the office we worked with in the DR. Their office was almost half women, which isn’t what I expected. I was especially glad to have a woman as our group’s mentor. She shared with us how she had earned a Master’s Degree in Spain and was now working for INDRHI and teaching part time at the University in Santo Domingo. I thought it was wonderful that women engineering students have her as a role model.
I had such a fantastic time and learned so much through this study abroad class. I also built strong friendships with those in the class and those in Dominican Republic that we met. I hope I can participate in this class again so that I can use all that I’ve learned to help them by performing analysis for another location and see them again. This class helped me realize ways that I can use my degree to better the lives of people in other countries.