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Die Luft der Freiheit weht: A Study Abroad in Germany

Throughout the spring and summer of 2015, I was living in Germany through Stanford’s study abroad program. In those six months, I was able to immerse myself in German culture, practice the language, and gain a new sense of confidence and independence.

I spent Spring Quarter in Berlin, living in a homestay with a lovely German woman in the exciting neighborhood of Kreuzberg. Every day, I would take the subway across the city to class at Stanford’s abroad campus. Unlike many other universities, Stanford does not do an exchange program with another university. Instead, students continue to take Stanford classes with Stanford professors, just in Berlin. Though, once classes were over, the city was my playground. Berlin is a bustling city, full of parks, restaurants, museums, festivals, clubs, and more. Plus, Berlin is at the very heart of Europe where dozens of other countries are just a bus or train ride away. This freedom of movement provided a much appreciated contrast to the dreaded “Stanford bubble” and most of the students took advantage of it. My fellow students and I spent almost every other weekend traveling to some new corner of Europe.

Over the summer, the adventure continued. With the help of the Krupp Program, I was able to find a three month internship at Infineon Technologies in Munich. This was the true lesson of independence. I no longer traveled in the pack of Stanford students. There was no sweet German lady to cook me soup if I got sick. I had to learn how to be a real adult in a completely foreign place. I bonded with my coworkers, found a group of other international students and workers like me to travel and hang out with, and, of course, I continued to explore the city and its surroundings. By taking advantage of the safety and ease of transportation found in Germany, I soared on the winds of freedom.

By the end of the internship, I honestly didn’t want to leave. I had found such a beautiful balance of work and relaxation not easily found at Stanford. I developed a confidence that will carry me wherever in the world I will end up. It is truly an experience that I will cherish and remember.
Now, if you too plan on going abroad, be sure to plan ahead. As an engineer, there may be an overwhelming number of requirements, but with careful planning, it can be done. I encourage any student interested to carefully research the different abroad programs available, be aware of language requirements and deadlines, and plan your schedule accordingly. I promise you will not regret it.


Cynthia

Blogger:

 

Cynthia Dalmady

 

Favorite engineering-related sources for inspiration:

 

 

Why did you choose to be an engineer?

 

I became an engineer to build things. I wanted to create new products that helped solve problems. As an electrical engineer, I have been able to build things from bluetooth speakers, AC-DC converters, battery chargers, and more. And even though the labs can be frustrating at times, that a-ha moment when it all works is the best feeling in the world.

 

Hometown:

 

Caracas, Venezuela

 

Class Year:

 

2016

 

Field:

 

Electrical Engineering

 

Blogger Bio:

 

Cynthia was born in Caracas, Venezuela, but moved to the United States as a child. Now she is studying Electrical Engineering at Stanford but always tries to find time for traveling and tinkering.

Stanford SETS India Trip 2015

My junior year, I stumbled upon the Global Engineering Program. I hadn’t heard of the program until I received an email the day before the application due date, but I was immediately excited. In addition to international internships, the Global Engineering Program organizes Summer Engineering and Technology Study Tours (SETS), two-week trips to international cities with growing technology sectors.

I went on the 2015 SETS India trip and traveled to Bangalore, India’s IT hub, and New Delhi, India’s capital. We met with Stanford alumni starting tech companies, venture capitalists, entrepreneurs in the emerging space industry, NGOs, government officials, and universities.

I was initially interested in the program because I had collaborated with coworkers in Bangalore while an intern one summer, but the other team had been shut down halfway through the summer. I was startled by the needless redundancy and lack of structure for communication between the US and India campuses. I knew that India was a major center for global tech companies like Microsoft and Intel but I had little knowledge outside of the big names.

On our trip, we learned about increasing numbers of homegrown startups, including many Stanford alumni who had moved to India explicitly to start companies. The VC scene had also skyrocketed, with e-commerce startups floating well on the pools of venture capital money now flooding into Bangalore. People are recognizing the opportunity of India as the world’s second largest market.

Many hosts mentioned how the innovations that Indian companies have made to succeed are often different from the typical innovations we see in US companies. For example, Amazon.com has tried to establish operations in India for years but struggled for confounding reasons. However, taking a look at the history of e-commerce in India, there was little established trust in phone catalog ordering or paying before a product was delivered. Flipkart, “The Online Megastore,” adopted the Cash on Delivery model. Payment on delivery is seemingly simple, but operationally complex. What do you do when the customer isn’t available when you deliver, for example? Who sinks those costs of a customer who isn’t there at delivery?

A continuous theme, however, was the awareness of Chinese companies looming over and slowly encroaching into India. A VC firm we visited had lost an investment in an Uber-like company, because the company’s rival had received 10 times the funding from a Chinese VC firm. They simply couldn’t compete.

I learned a lot from the SETS trip and would 10/10 recommend to any student. The SETS trips rotate locations each year, so this year they’re doing China and South Africa SETS trips, as well as internships and service trips that you can check out at:

http://engineering.stanford.edu/portals/student/global-engineering-programs


Charles

Blogger:
Charles Guan

Favorite engineering-related sources for inspiration:
https://learn.sparkfun.com/
http://www.discovercircuits.com/list.htm

Why did you choose to be an engineer?
I enjoyed natural sciences and math in high school but wanted to learn how to solve practical problems in everyday life. I enjoyed my Electrical Engineering classes and eventually decided to stick with it.

Hometown:
Fremont, CA

Class Year:
2016

Field:
Electrical Engineering

Blogger Bio:
Charles grew up close by in Fremont and studies Electrical Engineering at Stanford. He researches MRI algorithms and is a TA for Intro Electronics. In his free time, he enjoys skiing, mentoring underclassmen, and munching on warm pie from The Creamery.

Studying Abroad at Oxford

This past spring quarter I studied abroad at Oxford University, and it was one of the most formative experiences of my life. I thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of my experience, and over three months I bonded with new friends, furthered my academic studies, and expanded my cultural horizons.

My best memories are my one on one tutorial meetings with my tutor Professor Nicholas Horsewood. I read Alternative Investment Economics and learned about the major alternative investments such as private equity, hedge funds, commodities, and real estate. Every week Professor Horsewood challenges me think critically, as he drills me with questions to formulate my thinking. I am also part of Magdalen College, and my favorite activities include attending formal hall, choral evensong, punting, and the deer park.

As one of the six sophomores out of 45 Stanford students studying abroad at Oxford this term, I have been extremely grateful for this unique opportunity. The Stanford House’s quaint atmosphere, homey living space, and relaxing neutral colors created a calm environment for me to focus intently on scholarship.* My favorite part of the house is the library. There, I read and finished a biography on J. R. R. Tolkein, who was a former student and fellow at Oxford. I immediately related with the experiences he had while he lived here. Walking through the Covered Market, shopping at Cornmarket Street, commuting by High Street, and lounging through Christ Church Meadows, I retrace Tolkein’s steps and ponder if the natural and historic beauty that I witness are the same inspirations he drew for his literary works.

While I doubt I will author the next fantasy literary masterpiece, I realized that my time here is a short glimpse of a historic, wonderful, and mystic place known as Oxford. Since the first day, I have experienced each opportunity to the fullest at Oxford. Coming back to Stanford, I realized to cherish every moment, strive to become a better individual, and pursue my passions.

*Check out a tour of the Stanford House


Kevin

Blogger:
Kevin Wang

Favorite engineering-related sources for inspiration:
“Steve Jobs” by Walter Isaacson

Why did you choose to be an engineer?
I chose to be an engineer to challenge my intellectual rigor and to develop new perspectives.

Hometown:
Singapore and California

Class Year:
2017

Field:
Management Science and Engineering

Blogger Bio:
Kevin Wang is a junior at Stanford University pursuing a MS&E major and a CS minor. Growing up in Singapore and Hong Kong, Kevin has studied abroad at Oxford University. He is also the president of the professional business fraternity Alpha Kappa Psi and in his free time dances on the hip-hop dance team Alliance Streetdance. This upcoming summer, Kevin will be an investment banking analyst at Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

The Stanford Engineering Endeavors Committee

Hi guys! My name is Vikram Prasad, and I’m a senior majoring and co-terming in Electrical Engineering. That said, coming into Stanford, I wasn’t totally sure that engineering was for me. It seemed intimidating in how much time the coursework took, but also in the number of paths I could take to be an engineer. I knew being an engineer would equip me with the skills to design, prototype, and build. But, navigating all the opportunities afforded to us at Stanford was difficult. Many potential engineers come to Stanford with a rough idea of they want to work on, but are not exactly sure how to pursue it. Some people are like me; I just wanted to build stuff. This problem is something I’m attempting to address as a leader in the Stanford Engineering Endeavors Committee.

This committee is just in its second year and is attempting to curb the intimidation factor that undergraduate engineers feel as they decide their vocation. More specifically, we are commissioned by the School of Engineering to help guide these undergraduates as they endeavor to work on cutting-edge, contemporary problems on which they yearn to solve. As such, we have two main tasks. The first is that we poll the undergraduate populations to see which topics students want to work on/wished they work on. The next is to then package and publish the information to provide a rough infrastructure that will allow students to achieve those goals. For example, for a given topic, we could suggest which classes to take, which research labs to join, which clubs to participate, etc. This information can help students figure out what is the best way to develop their engineering skills to tackle the problem. Moreover, this can also help students think more critically about what they themselves would like to accomplish during their time at Stanford, something that would have benefited me as an underclassman.

I highly recommend you take a look at the Committee’s first report, which will be published in the coming months. The advice available here can also be qualified by someone already in the path that you’d like to follow. I also encourage you to look towards the Tau Beta Pi network to find such a person. He or she could help you make the difference in the world that you so desire.


Vikram

Blogger:
Vikram Prasad

Why did you choose to be an engineer?
I chose to be an engineer so that I would have the skills to tackle problems in which I had an interest. Right now, I think I’m too young to truly know what I want to do in this world. However, I’m very keen on developing skills that will equip me to fulfill those dreams. I think engineering as a discipline is a great way to do that for two reasons. Not only does it teach you hard skills in how to design, prototype, and build, but it also provides a platform to think. This latter reason is what primarily fuels my interest in engineering; the problems I come across in my coursework require creativity, intellect, and determination. These qualities will undoubtedly be helpful throughout my life and such a realization reinforces my love for engineering everyday.

Hometown:
Troy, MI

Class Year:
2016

Field:
Electrical Engineering

My Stanford Journey

Before I came to Stanford, I knew two things: that I loved to write, and that I loved to film. Pencil in hand, I crafted a vast diversity of literary works, ranging from creative nonfiction to screenplay writing. One day, I would be exploring a new plot twist for my fictional novel on underwater species. The next, I would be envisioning myself a pioneer in the culinary industry, detailing my restaurant’s menu and architectural layout head-to-toe. I fell in love with dialogue, emotional expression, motivational theory, and the Oxford comma, all at once.

When it came to cinematography, I found beautiful potential in my every day surroundings. Wherever I went, I would tuck my camera under the crook of my arm with the same instinctive gesture as slipping a cellphone into a back pocket. I found the world begging to be filmed at every turn, but inspiration especially struck in the editing room, where I realized any single roll of footage held the potential to tell a million different stories. With just a camera or pen, I had the power to add unique value to the world that had never been seen before.

My fascinations in the literary and visual worlds intertwined in college, where I found a home in the Stanford d.school. Spearheading Stanford’s top design group for social entrepreneurship, I especially invested my efforts in shaping the future of education for the better. Along the way, I even found myself majoring in an engineering field, adding a technical foundation to my creative energy.

Film and writing turned out to be cut from the same fabric — that of telling stories and understanding people — and the Product Design Engineering major both encapsulated the creative expression I had learned to love, as well as opened my eyes to an industry where I could leverage my talents for good.

Over the years, I’ve followed a diversity of design-inspired directions, from learning the Adobe Creative Suite, to logging hours in the Stanford Product Realization Lab with physical product manufacturing, to designing and developing virtual world experiences in the Stanford Virtual Human Interaction Lab.

The most rewarding stage of my journey, however, happened when I co-founded “Girls Driving for a Difference,” an organization dedicated to empowering young women across the nation to become leaders of social change. With a team of Stanford women, I embarked on a 14-week long cross-country road-trip in an RV, bringing our design and leadership workshops to over 1200 middle-school girls from diverse communities across the map.

The key to our leadership curriculum was to flip girls’ mindsets about their futures to motivate more meaningful reflection. For example, instead of asking girls, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”, we challenged them, “What kind of change do you want to create in the world, and how can you begin to achieve that dream today?” No matter how long my day would be on the road, hearing about their goals would keep me driving forward.

Now, as a Stanford senior, the doors feel ambiguously open for next year. Wherever my passion leads me, however, I know a few things for sure: there will always be more blank pages to fill, moments to film, and opportunities to make the world an even more inspiring place tomorrow than it is today.


Katie

Blogger:
Katherine Kirsch

Why did you choose to be an engineer?
Because I fell in love with the Stanford d.school and wanted to add a technical foundation to my creative passions in design.

Hometown:
Los Altos Hills, CA

Class Year:
2016

Field:
Product Design Engineering

Blogger Bio:
Katie is a Bay Area local and Product Design Engineering senior at Stanford with a passion for using design to create social impact and shape the future of learning. In her free time, she loves to create graphics on Adobe Illustrator, write, and produce films.