Study Abroad opportunities have been offered to students at Valpo since 1968, when the first programs were established in England and Germany. Seeking to enhance the educational experience for its students and expand upon the 35 percent of all Valpo undergraduate students who study abroad prior to graduation, the College of Engineering recently implemented a semester in Reutlingen program.
“Engineering students come to Valpo because of the strength of its engineering program and its ability to offer that something extra, whether it’s the community environment or opportunities to get involved in things like music or international studies,” says Peter Krenzke ’08, Ph.D., assistant professor of mechanical engineering and bioengineering. “There’s a lot of value in exposure to things outside of your field of work. The new Reutlingen program is a great learning experience for our students, forcing them to operate in a completely different environment and stretching them in ways that aren’t typical.”
While Valpo students have access to more than 45 Study Abroad opportunities across 26 countries, the rigors associated with pursuit of a degree in a field like engineering can lead students to shy away from studying abroad, particularly if they wish to graduate in four years. Traditional avenues of Study Abroad within the College of Engineering have included summer programs; Valparaiso University’s International Engineering Program (VIEP), a five-year program consisting of a year abroad; or semester programs that often lead to tacking on an additional semester of study prior to graduation. The College has responded to this challenge with an exciting opportunity to Study Abroad for an entire semester and still remain on a four-year graduation track.
Launched this fall, the Reutlingen program is available to students of junior standing and majoring in mechanical, computer, electrical, or bioengineering. This new offering has engendered much student interest with the first cohort of nine students — two electrical, three mechanical, and seven mechanical or bioengineering — currently taking advantage of the program.
“This program is a wonderful opportunity for engineering students to study and experience the German culture and remain on a four-year track to graduation,” says Xiangrui “Andy” Li ’20, mechanical engineering major. “I am really glad that I decided to participate in the program as being able to study in Germany will definitely shape my character in a positive way and bring more diversity to my personality.”
As one of Valpo’s oldest and most popular Study Abroad programs, the Study Center in Reutlingen, where the VIEP-German program is based, serves as a fitting locale for this new program. The course plan for this program requires students to take at least 12 credit hours, including a number of engineering courses to stay on track. It combines courses offered through Reutlingen University, including a German language course and an engineering course in English, and live-streamed engineering courses taught by Valpo professors. The learning experience extends far beyond the classroom with many cultural activities and trips incorporated into the program and coordinated through an on-site resident director at the Study Center.
“International study helps students grow as individuals and see life through a different lens,” says Scott Duncan, Ph.D., associate professor of mechanical engineering and bioengineering and department chair. “Learning about a different culture and gaining experience on the world stage will give our students a big advantage due to the global nature of engineering.”