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July, 2019

Students Embark on First Hong Kong Exchange

By Maggie Master

   From left: Sarah Luffy, Kathryn Kazior, Thomas Lee, Kristin Kennedy, Emily Growney on campus before their departure for Hong Kong.
Civil engineering student Thomas Lee has wanted to travel to Asia since he first met a group of Japanese children when he was in the fourth grade. Lee got his wish in January, when he flew to Hong Kong as one of five CUA students participating in the School of Engineering’s pioneer study-abroad student exchange.

Lee, along with fellow juniors Kristen Kennedy, Sarah Luffy, Kathryn Kazior and Emily Growney, is studying at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University in the first of several student exchanges that will link CUA’s engineering school and foreign universities.

Besides realizing a childhood dream, Lee sees this as an opportunity to gain experience in the international engineering world that might set him apart from other young engineers.

“In today’s world, if you’re not internationally experienced, you’re at a real disadvantage,” says the Cedar Bluffs, Neb., native, noting that many prominent engineering firms have international offices and look for employees who have had engineering-related experiences outside of the United States. Lee spent last summer and fall interning for DMJM, an engineering firm with an office in China.

Other Opportunities Abroad
How About Greece for Spring Break?

CUA offers study abroad programs in Australia, Belgium, Chile, England, France, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, Poland and Spain. For students who aren’t able to make the semester- or year-long commitment, several short-term opportunities to experience foreign countries and cultures are available. This spring, for example, the Department of Greek and Latin will offer a spring break trip to Greece from Feb. 29 to March 8. The group of students and their professors will travel to Athens, Corinth, Epidaurus, Nauplion, Mycenae and Delphi, visiting such historic landmarks as the Athenian Acropolis, the site of ancient Corinth and the sanctuaries of Apollo and Athena at Delphi.

In addition to academic tours, several service trips are planned for the upcoming spring break. Campus Ministry will sponsor a trip to Jamaica for 22 students, led by Rev. Brad Heckathorne, O.F.M. Conv., associate chaplain for graduate students and student staff. The students will visit several sites around the island, doing manual labor and tutoring children. Three groups of students will embark on Habitat for Humanity trips to Sacramento, Calif.; Santa Fe, N.M.; and Greeley, Colo., where they will spend the week building homes. More mission trips to foreign countries are planned for this summer.

In fact, China is producing many more engineers than the United States, and, increasingly, U.S. engineering firms are outsourcing their work and offices to China, says engineering Dean Charles Nguyen, thus making China a hotbed of engineering activity. China’s ongoing industrial and economic boom also provides a great deal of work for engineers.

As part of the current exchange, nine students from Hong Kong Polytechnic are taking courses at CUA for the spring semester, as are three students from Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City International University. The CUA students arrived in Hong Kong on Jan. 9. The Chinese and Vietnamese students studying at CUA arrived on campus in mid-January.

The exchange with Hong Kong Polytechnic has been several years in the making, part of what Nguyen sees as a necessary offering for top American engineering schools. Other exchange programs are planned with universities in Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia and China. As is the case at Hong Kong Polytechnic, CUA students in these future programs will attend the overseas university for a semester while paying tuition at CUA and earning credit toward their CUA degrees.

This year’s crop of CUA students are biomedical and civil engineering majors, and their courses while in Hong Kong will focus on the core curricula of those subjects. Lee’s courses in Hong Kong — all taught in English — will focus on hydraulics, waste and water management, and air and noise pollution. In addition, he will take two electives on Chinese culture and history.

While students take the same core curricula offered at CUA, the benefit of taking those courses in China is an opportunity to see, firsthand, how a country with an emerging, global engineering presence frames those subjects.

“A big draw was the fact that they get to see engineering from a global perspective,” says Peggy Bruce, the student-exchange coordinator for the School of Engineering. She also notes that they are now able to do so while staying on their degree path and graduation timeline.

In preparation for their travels, the five CUA students spent last semester preparing to better integrate into Chinese culture by taking Chinese 101, an introductory course on Chinese language and culture organized by the engineering school in collaboration with CUA's School of Arts and Sciences. The course was open to arts and sciences students, and was strongly recommended for the students traveling to China, all of whom took the course.

Students traveling to Hong Kong enrolled in Chinese 101 last fall. Visiting instructor Suzy Zen taught them the basics of Chinese language and culture.
“When I called the Chinese embassy a few weeks ago, I could actually understand what they were saying [in Chinese], which was pretty incredible,” Thomas Lee says.

The students will stay in Hong Kong until at least May, when the semester ends. Bruce notes that the students have an option to extend the stay, and several of them plan to travel in mainland China during their exchange. Dean Nguyen will visit the students in February to observe the program and see how the students are acclimating.

Nguyen says he believes these partnerships will provide a two-way street, allowing for the best and brightest foreign engineers to attend CUA for a semester — and perhaps return here for graduate school.

“This study-abroad program was established to make our future graduates fully immersed in what is, increasingly, a global engineering market,” says Dean Nguyen. “It will definitely make them very attractive in the job market. I look forward to traveling to Hong Kong to assess their progress.”

For his part, Lee already has his eye on a prospective job post-graduation: building U.S. embassies abroad, which would mesh his desire to travel with his civil engineering skills.


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Last Revised 31-Jan-08 11:41 AM.