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Sarah McQueen in Peru holding a Peruvian baby

Sarah McQueen

Civil Engineering, Student

What international experience have you had?

The Global Engineering Outreach (GEO) project class has been the best class I have taken at BYU thus far in my mechanical engineering education. For GEO, I was on a team that developed a hand-powered water pump for the people of the Uros Islands in Lake Titicaca. While in the U.S. we designed our pump, through much trial and error, to be constructed of PVC pipe and a few screws and glue—all items that can be purchased for an affordable price in the small town on the shore of the lake.

What have you learned through your experience in engineering?

I see the world differently now. I discovered that the American way of life isn’t always the best. While on the trip I heard a lot of phrases like “I’m so blessed to have all the comforts I have back home,”or “I’m so grateful that I don’t have to live in these huts.” I didn’t agree. Those people, in their huts, and with little material comforts, live a far happier life.
My way of life is no better than theirs, if it is compared in that sense. In fact, I felt a little silly offering our plastic water pump to them. I didn’t want to give the impression that I thought their way of life was not up to par, or that I was trying to change their way of life. The Peruvian people live a beautiful life in a beautiful country. My way of life isn’t any better than theirs; my life is just different.
I approach engineering design for developing countries in a different manner. It is about the people, not the product. There is also great value in protecting culture, instead of always progressing technology like engineers tend to do.
My summary of the experience would be to take life a little slower, and work more with your hands.