Few science students intern abroad, prompting program

by Nathan Hall

University science and engineering students tend to pursue international internships less often than College of Liberal Arts students.

But the University is now part of an intern-abroad program designed to narrow that gap. The International Association for the Exchange of Students for Technical Experience offers well-paid internships in several different parts of the globe.

Nearly 1,100 University students attend classes or intern overseas, approximately 20 percent of which are Institute of Technology students.

“One reason I’ve had trouble participating in an internship abroad was the extremely tight schedule I have to keep in order to graduate on time in four years,” said David Rajala, a senior mechanical engineering student. “I couldn’t take any chances on whether my credits would transfer or not.”

The Global Campus program has begun to integrate study-abroad curriculum with key members of the science and engineering faculty. The campus has created easy-to-understand advising sheets for virtually all of their programs in order to assist academic advisers, faculty and students.

“I think one obstacle for our students is the fact that they aren’t required to take a foreign language,” said H. Ted Davis, Institute of Technology dean.

Davis said since it is not mandatory, most students do not take a language and therefore are at a distinct disadvantage in non-English speaking internship settings.

“Obviously, if they are bilingual, then the world is their oyster,” Davis said.

Global Campus also offers high-impact, three-week seminars during May intersession tailored for English-speaking science and engineering students interested in visiting or developing contacts in places such as Switzerland or Hong Kong. These sessions cost approximately $3,000 to attend, and financial is aid available.

In Hong Kong, interns only have to pay Minnesota tuition.

Rajala said he plans to attend the Switzerland session next summer.

“I want to be as fully acculturated as possible,” he said. “I’m going there to be much more than just another tourist.”

Susan Kubitschek, International Programs coordinator, said the internship program has been quite successful over the last few years.

“We went from having six (science and engineering students) abroad in 1997 to roughly over 130 in 2001,” she said.

Kubitschek said students should take advantage of programs offered in Denmark and Norway.

“Thanks to their socialist-style economy, everybody studies tuition-free,” Kubitschek said. “All you have to worry about is paying for airfare, room and board.”

Rajala, who is 25 percent Norwegian, said he would like to study in Norway in order to learn more about his family’s heritage but can’t afford it.

“Even with a great scholarship package I would still only break even at best and I need to be earning money if I’m not taking a full load,” Rajala said.

Kubitschek said scholarships range from $500 up to $3,000, with a total of $500,000 available. The two main contributors to this fund are the Bush Foundation and the U.S. Department of Education.

“We’re way ahead of almost every other engineering college in this regard,” said Michelle Cumming, Global Campus’ curriculum integration coordinator.

Cumming said Global Campus was especially proud of a program that sends 10 students per year to intern in Melbourne, Australia.

“We know by experience that companies are hiring our well-traveled students,” Kubitschek said. “They want employees who are world savvy and this is a great resume builder. And through a lot of team effort, we’ve made it a lot easier for everybody to experience this.”

Nathan Hall welcomes comments at [email protected]