Studying abroad better prepares students for an international workforce

Vanderbilt undergraduate engineering students have traveled throughout Asia to learn about nanotechnology, renewable energy and environmental technologies. Others have learned about tissue engineering and medical implant device design in Australia or participated in engineering programs in South Africa.

Cara Welker
Welker at Milford Sound, New Zealand

Biomedical and chemical engineering senior Cara Welker recently returned from studying abroad at the University of New South Wales in Sydney with the motivation to immerse herself in the educational and cultural environment in another country.

My international experience helped me relate better with different types of people, in addition to allowing me to be more independent, said Welker. “It also helped me view the United States and its policies with a more objective view.”

Employers with global operations value students with inter­national experiences, explains School of Engineering Associate Dean Cynthia Paschal. “Students who choose to study at a foreign university gain a perspective that better prepares them for an international workforce,” said Paschal.

Draffin in front of the academic building in Clearwater Bay, Hong Kong

After spending his fall 2012 semester abroad, computer engineering senior Benjamin Draffin returned from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology with a changed viewpoint and strong belief in his own abilities. “Since then, I’ve launched a company, started a 200-person student organization, published original research and directed a large performance art show,” said Draffin.

Draffin credits his study abroad experience with instilling in him the confidence to try all of these things.

Unlike most universities, students remain enrolled at Vanderbilt while they are abroad, which means they receive full Vanderbilt credit for the courses taken abroad, and receive all or most of their usual financial aid when they study for a semester or longer.

Since studying at the National University of Ireland, Mary Morgan Scott has acquired a higher level of confidence in herself and ability to take on new experiences. “It is amazing how much immersing yourself in another culture can teach you about yourself.”

The biomedical engineering senior was the only United States student in her engineering courses.  “It was a challenge at times, but also a triumph because I was able to become friends with many of the Irish students and work with them successfully on group projects. We learned a lot from each other, and it was so much fun!” recalls Scott.

The School of Engineering and the Global Education Office work closely together to provide educational opportunities abroad that are well integrated into the Vanderbilt curriculum. As a result, Vanderbilt sent the 2012 and 2013 undergraduate classes abroad at a 20 percent rate, well above the nearly four percent national average.