Study Abroad Student Stories

Internship in Ireland

 

 

 

“My favorite part was getting to travel relatively inexpensively. Since I was  already in Europe, traveling around Europe was a ton cheaper than flying from  the US and there wasn’t any issue with jetlag from large time differences.” 

“The best part of my study abroad experience was taking GA 2033 “Language  and Culture in an Irish-Speaking Area”. This was one of the classes offered to  international students that took place over the course of a week during Easter  Recess. I spent the week in a Gaeltacht fully immersed in the Irish language,  culture, landscape, and history. A Gaeltacht is an area of Ireland that  primarily speaks Irish and is focused on preserving the language and culture of  Ireland. Before attending this class, I have been in Ireland for 3 months and  traveled all over the country trying to soak up as much as I could before I had  to leave. However, while my time at the Gaeltacht was short, I honestly feel  like it wasn’t until that week that I truly saw Ireland and all it has to offer. I  left the Gaeltacht with a completely different outlook on my study abroad  experience as a whole. I would highly recommend this class to anyone studying  abroad in Cork.” 

 

Internship in Germany: Meredith Bain

 

 

 

 

This summer I interned for the municipal government of Ingolstadt, Germany, where I developed a computer-based greenhouse gas emissions monitoring system to track progress on the city government’s carbon neutrality plan. My majors are math and German studies, and I do a lot of environmental and climate change work at NC State and in Raleigh, so it was a perfect fit for me! I designed a computer-based model for estimating the greenhouse gas emissions occurring within the boundaries of the city. I used this model to generate annual emissions inventories dating back to 2014, and then I submitted policy proposals for decreasing the city’s carbon emissions to zero tonnes by the end of 2050. Aside from that, I assisted with drafting international project proposals for a series of connected national parks along the Danube River, and I also helped with an exchange visit from one of Ingolstadt’s sister cities.

How did you find this internship?

I got the internship with the help of my German adviser. I applied to a program run by a nonprofit called Cultural Vistas, where you submit a resume and a bunch of writing about your career aspirations and level of foreign language competency, and then the staff finds a relevant position for you. They’re great at what they do and they run similar programs all around the world, so go ahead and check out Cultural Vistas if you’re feeling adventurous next summer.

Going into this internship, what were you most excited about?
I was most excited to have the opportunity to spend my summer dedicated only to environmental work, whereas during the school year my attention tends to be distracted by math homework and other extracurricular obligations. Also, I was excited to meet people whose full-time jobs are protecting and improving the environment!

Were you anxious or nervous about anything?

My German skills are really not that great, so I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to keep up with the pace of work. However, I improved a lot, and I learned that a rudimentary grasp of German is all that’s necessary to be a competent worker anyway. It’s pretty arrogant to assume that everyone will speak English all the time, but a basic knowledge of your target language will suffice.

Of all the lessons you learned during this internship, which one had the most profound impact?

I learned that it’s ok to throw away old work and give up on ideas that are not functional. The final version of the emissions monitoring program is the eleventh iteration of my third idea of what the system would look like, so needless to say a lot of my work was thrown away. It was always terrifying to give up on a program that had taken so much time to develop, especially as the deadline got closer, but I noticed that every time I started over I was a faster and more efficient worker. All of the failed and messy attempts helped me improve the math and layout of the next iteration, so it ended up not being a disaster every time I had to start over.

If you are visiting Germany, you need to see or experience…

Go on a bike ride!! Germany has a very well-developed infrastructure for bicycles, and it’s perfectly feasible to bike between small towns. I’ve been on several day trips along the Danube exploring the villages in the area, and in my opinion it’s just as fun as going to big cities like Munich and Berlin. The rural areas are so scenic, especially on the river, and if you’re lucky you might even get to see an enormous German rabbit along the way. Also, Germans have this drink called Eiskaffee, which is basically a cup of coffee with a massive helping of ice cream scooped into it. You should definitely try Eiskaffee!

Semesters in Budapest: Hayley Russell

 

Budapest Semesters in Mathematics
https://www.budapestsemesters.com

 

 

What made you decide to study abroad?

It has always been my goal to travel more, and I love learning new languages. I was looking for a program where I could not only take classes that would allow me to graduate on time but would expose me to how another country teaches mathematics. I wanted to study abroad for a semester so I could experience living in a different country and really getting to know the culture and the language.

Why did you choose this program?

I first heard about Budapest Semesters in Mathematics (BSM) from my advisor freshman year. It is a very unique program, not attached to any one university, and designed specifically for advanced math majors. They have also have a program designed for math education majors as well. I chose this program because Hungary is known for being very good at teaching mathematics and has raised many famous mathematicians like Paul Erdős, John von Neumann, Lajos Pósa, etc. The program offers several classes not usually offered at NCSU as well as several unique to Hungary. In addition, I wanted to live in a country where English was as widely spoken to challenge myself to learn a new language.

What classes are you taking and how do they compare to NC State’s?

I’m taking combinatorics, graph theory, Hungarian language, and Discovery Learning: The Pósa Method. I’m also taking a computer graphics class at Aquincum Institute of Technology (AIT). In my math classes I’m given weekly problem sets similar to NC State, but the majority of my grade is determined by one midterm and a final. The Posa Method class is one of the classes unique to this program. It is a problem solving class where we are given a wide variety of problems that don’t require an advanced mathematical background, but employs some creative thinking and clever tricks. There is also an educational aspect to this class where we discuss how we came to a solution, alternate proofs, and discuss how these problem solving skills could be taught in a high school setting to advanced students.

What difficulties have you faced while studying abroad?

It took me a little while to learn how to navigate the multitude of buses, trams, metros, and trains, but the public transportation is very convienient and almost never late. In Budapet, you can get around without knowing Hungarian, but when I traveled to some smaller more rural towns, I struggled to find people who spoke English.

Would you recommend studying abroad to other students at NC State?

Definitely! Studying abroad has been one of the best decisions I’ve made while at NC State. Living abroad in a different culture has challenged me to adapt, but also exposed me to beautiful sights, delicious food, and the witty sarcasm found in most Hungarians. Though several of the classes are equivalent to classes offered at NC State, they are more challenging and cover the material more thoroughly. If you are a math major I would highly recommend this program, Budapest Semesters in Mathematics Education, or Math in Mocsow. If you are interested in computer science, I would recommend looking into Aquincum Institue of Techonolgy. Feel free to contact me with any questions at hsrussel@ncsu.edu.

 

A Semester Abroad: Kerry Baker

 

 

 

 

It has definitely been the best decision I have ever made to study abroad. Ireland has opened up so many new doors for me; being that connections I have made to further my career or just friendships that will last a lifetime. I was nervous to travel abroad at first, like many students are, and I found myself uncomfortable with the introvert I had become over the years. I used to be so busy at home in Raleigh with work, school, SUM Club, and other extracurricular activities that I would enjoy my time alone. But here in Cork, I have so much more free time to travel and get to know the people around me and I’ve come to truly love and appreciate that freedom.

The courses that I’m taking are vastly different to NC State’s. We have no homework, maybe 1-2 tests, and the classes are comprised of more students, around 60-100, and are less engaging. This basically means more studying and time spent teaching myself—which are my least favorite things to do.

I’m taking Mathematical Analysis I, Fourier Methods —which is turning out to be more challenging than I first thought—, Intermediate Macroeconomics, and Travel Writing. All of these courses are required for me to complete my BS in Mathematics and minor in Creative Writing. However, many students traveling from the US and abroad had the opportunity to partake in elective courses ranging from Archeology to Gaelic. Although I would have really enjoyed taking classes such as those, I’m grateful that I had the opportunity to take the minimum amount of credits my final semester and focus on traveling.

Math has always been my passion, even in times when I’m participating in a difficult course and it seems like I’ll never understand what’s actually going on, I’ve always loved the challenges
it’s given me. It’s super corny to say, but to me math is the language of the universe. I also study creative writing in university, and I have so far found that no combination of words can capture what math truly means to me. It’s more of a feeling—completing a complex proof or finally getting the correct answer on probability homework and actually understanding the steps it took to get it—there will never be anything like the satisfaction that math gives me.

I find that wherever I go there are people that feel the same way about math as I do. There are times when you just want to quit and focus on a degree in some other less demanding subject, but for me it’s about perseverance and proving to myself that I can do more than I think I am capable of.

Here in Ireland, I have befriended graduate students studying abroad, and it’s comforting to see that they struggle in the same classes and excel in the same areas as I do. Math is universal even when your native language is not.

 

A Semester Abroad: Emily Zucker

 

 

 

 

Emily Zucker, spent her 2016 fall semester studying abroad in Accra, Ghana at the University of Ghana. Below, she shares a few of her many experiences with her math professor and courses in Ghana.

Math is definitely a universal language. Although everything is different here, the math isn’t. My professor for both Discrete and Complex Analysis, Dr. Acquaah, is one of the best professors I’ve ever had.

In the beginning weeks of classes, I ended up in Dr. Acquaah’s office reviewing a Complex Analysis class I had missed. Upon my entrance to his office he instantly handed me a marker and said, “I’ll teach by having you do it”. Next thing I knew I was in a race to complete the proofs faster than his standards. This didn’t suck. This was bliss.

Math is beautiful. And maybe it took being in a third world country for me to see it’s pureness and importance in society. That change can happen, so long as someone is standing for it.

“What’s the most powerful country in the world?” Dr. Acquaah once asked my 60 person Discrete Mathematics class. “The U.S.,” the room of all-black students responded in unison. I can’t express how I felt being American in that moment. “Yes. And why is the U.S. Powerful?” He answered something along the lines of “Because they know math.”

Are you kidding me? No offense, but there is nothing that separates what I learn in the U.S. to what Ghanaian students are learning here. So why do I have the opportunity to work for big companies? Have a six-figure job with a nice apartment and an air conditioned work environment? To go eat sushi, chicken, burritos, burgers, pizza, cookie dough or any other food I can think of whenever I want. And them? They’re using composition notebooks in a humid classroom and they’re trying to become an actuary to make the money needed to survive. Working for a company in the U.S, any company, is so much of a dream to them that it’s impossible to obtain.

The classrooms and study rooms here have piles of broken chairs and desks in them. At night their only option to study is in their room or their hall reading room… both of which get old quickly. Their only fast food options consist of Jollof rice, chicken and beans. Also obtaining food, even snack food, by themselves at night isn’t a possibility. For the few women who study math at the University of Ghana, they experience unnecessary flirts and mansplaining from their classmates. Needless to say my experience as a white American woman studying math in this country is not easy. In fact, at some points it has REALLY sucked.

Studying here sucks. It sucks really bad. It sucks so bad that I’ve grown substantially. I’ve seen beautiful people trying harder than anyone I’ve ever seen in the U.S to make a difference for themselves and their country. I’ve seen an importance for diversity in mathematics, and the difference that I make for other women by simply being a woman in math.

I’ve seen the importance of resources in education, and I’ve gained an appreciation for rules and structure. This experience, though hard at times, is something I would recommend for anyone, especially math majors. Talk to the study abroad office and do consider coming to meet Dr. Acquaah in person.

If you would like to follow Emily’s story and journey, visit her blog: www.emilyexplorer.com

 

Semesters in Budapest: Alex Hazeltine

 

 

 

I applied for and participated in the Budapest Semesters in Mathematics Program. I chose BSM because of the number theory courses, but I also enjoyed taking other courses like combinatorics and set theory. I also managed to get away from the math at times and explore Europe. I got to visit many different places like Croatia, Munich, Strasbourg, Paris, and a few other places, and a couple of my favorite memories were the traditional dances at the Busójárás festival in Mohács and a 15 mile bike ride from Budapest to Szentendre. I met a fantastic group of friends from all over the world during my semester, and I definitely recommend looking into Budapest. -Alex Hazeltine, studied in Budapest, Hungary.

 

A Semester in China: Bradley Colt

 

 

 

 

 

I found a summer chemistry study in Hangzhou, China led by an NC state professor, which was nice because it fit my language needs and satisfied a GED requirement. I received the Gilman International Scholarship, which covered all of my travel expenses and the full program cost. It granted an incredible opportunity to explore China and the culture without the added financial stress. It’s absolutely worth it to whoever wants to apply! -Colt Bradley, studied in Hangzhou, China.

 

Other Quotes

Ireland, Cork University (MA 2051 & MA 2071)

 

“My favorite part was getting to travel relatively inexpensively. Since I was already in Europe, traveling around Europe was a ton cheaper than flying from the US and there wasn’t any issue with jetlag from large time differences.”

 

“MA 2051 Mathematical Analysis I came back as MA 425. I also took MA 2071 Fourier Methods and AM 2072 Mathematical Experimentation and Chaos which came back as MA 4** courses for Math Electives. And MA 4402 Game Theory and Linear Algebra which came back as MA *** for another Math Elective.”

 

Ireland, Cork University (MA 4402, CC 1112, CC 2250, GA 2033, HI 1115)

 

“The best part of my study abroad experience was taking GA 2033 “Language and Culture in an Irish-Speaking Area”. This was one of the classes offered to international students that took place over the course of a week during the Easter Recess. I spent the week in a Gaeltacht fully immersed in the Irish language, culture, landscape, and history. A Gaeltacht is an area of Ireland that primarily speaks Irish and is focused on preserving the language and culture of Ireland. Before attending this class, I have been in Ireland for 3 months and traveled all over the country trying to soak up as much as I could before I had to leave. However, while my time at the Gaeltacht was short, I honestly feel like it wasn’t until that week that I truly saw Ireland and all it has to offer. I left the Gaeltacht with a completely different outlook on my study abroad experience as a whole. I would highly recommend this class to anyone studying abroad in Cork.

 

Budapest Semesters in Mathematics (Real Functions and Measure & Combinatorics)

 

“The best aspect of the program was seeing how math is taught in other countries, Real Functions and Measure and Combinatorics transferred as Functional Analysis and MA 4**”

 

Cork University, Ireland (MA 2071)

 

“I really enjoyed being abroad for so long (a whole semester) and allowing myself to create a routine and lifestyle in a different continent and culture. I really enjoyed meeting people and getting to travel so easily around Europe. Fourier Method (transferred as 400 level Math), Irish Jig (transferred as GEP in HESD), Labor Market Economics (as 300 level Economics), Tutors in Irish History (400 level History)”