Growing up on Chicago’s south side, Keith Jackson never imagined his education taking him as far away as Shanghai, China. Yet Jackson gained new knowledge both in and out of the classroom during a summer 2010 study-abroad trip.
From May 24 to July 10, 2010, Jackson, an electrical and computer engineering student, took part in the China Summer Study Abroad Program, offered through International Engineering Studies and Programs. The program, centered in Hangzhou, China, focused on different aspects of engineering in China and was open to all engineering students. Seventeen College of Engineering students participated in the program, taking classes at Zhejiang University.
Engineering Professional Development Associate Faculty Associate Tom McGlamery and Mechanical Engineering Assistant Professor Ryan Kershner traveled to China with the students. McGlamery and Technical Communications Program Director Laura Grossenbacher taught a course, EPD 397, that focused on technical communication for engineers. Kershner taught ME 306, a course about the mechanics of materials. Students wrote blogs about their experiences as a requirement for the EPD course.
In addition to those two courses, the students also participated in a “survival guide” to Chinese language and culture.
The program featured tours of different areas of interest in the region, and included cultural and industrial visits. “We got to see a lot of different companies and industrial facilities in Shanghai,” says Jackson. “It was really interesting to see how everything was run. Some places were very different than you would expect.”
The trip was Jackson’s first experience with international travel, and it affected him greatly. “Everything around you was totally different. Being completely submerged in a different culture made it really rewarding,” says Jackson. “But it was such a great and unforgettable experience, to see and learn about new things.”
More than exciting, he found the experience to be incredibly humbling. “It was good to be in a situation where I could learn from a group of people totally different from myself,” says Jackson.
While traveling in cities like Shanghai, he was constantly surrounded by new things. “Being in a new environment and having to cope and work your way around it was a great experience,” he says. “Just being there was awesome.”
Jackson’s desire to travel has increased after studying in China. “Being able to continuously develop and learn more about different countries is great. It definitely won’t be the last trip I take,” says Jackson. “I don’t know where I’m going next, but I really want to keep traveling.”
His only complaint about international travel? The airplanes. “My flight was 14 hours long, and I missed one of my connections, so that always makes things difficult,” he says.
After his experiences in China, Jackson says he is ready to apply the things he learned in China to his life in Madison. “I want to keep continually developing my knowledge of other cultures even when I’m not traveling,” says Jackson. “Studying in China has definitely made me more interested in different parts of the world.”
Learn more about study-abroad opportunities through International Engineering Studies & Programs.