Engineering international exchange programs offer an opportunity to connect with the global community

An interest in travel led him to study abroad, but mechanical engineering student Robert Gillespy also gained technical skills, career focus and new contacts from the experience. Gillespy studied at the Technical University of Dresden in the summer of 2022 and at CETYS University in Mexico in the summer of 2023. The programs are offered through the College of Engineering International Exchange Program.

In Germany, Gillespy had a paid internship, where he worked on experimental aerodynamics: he carried out experimental testing of wing models in a wind tunnel. The experience, he said, “really drove my desire to get into aerodynamics and fluid dynamics. Germany was a great stepping stone for what I wanted to do in my career.”

Gillespy and two other University of Nevada, Reno students participated in a program that connected them to the global community.

“There were students from all over the world, so it was a good opportunity to meet students from different backgrounds,” Gillespy said.

Gillespy’s second study abroad experience was a two-week program at CETYS University in Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico. The international program brought engineering and business students from around the world to study and network together. This time he was the only one who left the university.

“Mexico was a unique opportunity,” Gillespy said. “Because it wasn’t so engineering-oriented, it gave me a good insight into the business side of things. Part of the events we did was to tour the manufacturing facilities, (delving) a lot into the operational side, which was a different view of engineering as a whole.”

These types of experiences enhance an engineering education, says Julie McMillin, who coordinates the College of Engineering’s international exchange programs.

“In addition to academic rigor, studying abroad can help you develop the ‘softer’ skills that employers are looking for,” McMillin said. “Skills such as independence, teamwork, leadership and adaptability.”

Gillespy credits McMillin with introducing him to study abroad and allaying some of his concerns about studying abroad, especially funding.

“There are many opportunities to receive funding,” Gillespy said. “Finance is a big part (of studying abroad) and the other big part is just living smart there.”

Fiscal management wasn’t the only thing Gillespy learned on the ground: he learned the importance of making global connections, even when there’s a language barrier.

“Going somewhere where you can’t speak the language is a challenge,” Gillespy said. “Finding out how to adapt to a foreign environment was a big change. Still… when you make those friendships, they’re strong.”

If you are interested in engineering programs abroad, please contact Julie McMillin at [email protected]. Applications for the German Summer Research Program are currently being accepted. The program offers the possibility of research abroad at no cost to the student.

Elvira Parkinson

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