As an engineering student, I have found myself so wrapped up in textbooks and correct answers. This experience has made me realize that engineering is so much more than that and social responsibilities like business and ethics are just as important.
Name: Anna Parrish
Can you share a description of the experience? Over the 2020 winter break, I traveled with around 30 other UMD Students to Sydney, Australia for a 3-week Study Abroad Program to study International Business Cultures in Engineering and Technology. Over the course of the program we visited various companies including Google, Qantas, and ResMed to learn about international business, corporate culture and the importance of intercultural communication skills. We also got to explore the amazing city of Sydney and enjoy the warm summer weather! Some of the highlights included taking an architectural tour, attending an opera at the Sydney Opera House, climbing the Sydney Harbor Bridge, and surfing at Bondi Beach!
What was the most impactful part of the experience? While I learned many valuable things in class about culture and its importance in my future career, the biggest impact of this experience was how much I learned about myself. I have new perspectives on change and growth, I spend much less time on my phone, I do not fear new experiences as much, and I am much more comfortable being independent. Also, going to Australia knowing only one person (barely), I was terrified about talking to people and making new friends. I have become extremely comfortable with talking to new people and have seen my confidence grow tremendously.
What surprised you? The biggest surprise was how easy and exciting traveling by myself for the first time was! Having never traveled without my parents or overseas before, I was a bit scared and nervous to fly all the way to the other side of the globe for a whole month. As soon as I got to the airport, I met some of the other students who were on the same flight as me and immediately felt at ease and the excitement took over. Traveling with a group of students my age was so fun and I learned a ton about myself and how to be independent.
Did you make any personal connections with your peers, industry professionals, faculty or staff? While I was a bit worried initially because I did not know anyone else doing the program, I can now say this was one of the best decisions of my life! After freshman year, many students find that their friend groups really do not change that much, but I am so grateful to have met so many amazing people on this trip that I now consider very close friends. Because the program was through the engineering school, the majority of the students were also engineering majors. I now have so many more engineering friends to collaborate and connect with! This program also gave me the opportunity to talk to the employees of the companies we visited, many of whom were from other countries and gave me insight and advice about working internationally and taking advantage of any opportunity you get to travel within your career.
What were your major takeaways? What did you learn? As an engineering student, I have found myself so wrapped up in textbooks and correct answers. This experience has made me realize that engineering is so much more than that and social responsibilities like business and ethics are just as important. I also learned to always ask questions, discuss, and analyze before coming to conclusions on issues or situations. Another big takeaway I had was the importance of learning about corporate culture when deciding where you want to work. I have gotten into the habit of having the mindset that every company is perfect and I should be dedicating all my time to making myself look good enough for them. I have realized that it is equally important as applicants to do research on the company and ask questions during interviews just as they ask you to ensure that your personal values and motivations match.
Have your career or academic goals changed as a result of this experience? I chose to do the winter program because I have always wanted to travel by myself and study abroad in college, but I was not sure if I could handle being away from home for a whole semester. This trip has definitely changed that and I am now looking into doing a full semester abroad before I graduate. I have also always been interested in working overseas in the future but this program solidified that and I hope to incorporate international business and travel in my future career!