globalMIT problem solvers to the world

global experiences

Olay in CAM

Emilienne Repak ’09, Biological Engineering
Pisa, Italy

Spent a semester in Italy conducting research at Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna

[Create Your Own : Research Abroad]



Not every major offers the opportunity to study abroad through the MIT-Cambridge exchange program. If you are interested in foreign languages or only spending a semester abroad, Cambridge might not even be the best option for you. Since UROPing had been the most rewarding part of my experience at MIT, I decided to design a research project overseas for my time abroad. Though I had my heart set on France, I found a lab that really excited me in Pisa, Italy. In May of my junior year, I was lucky enough to be awarded both the Eloranta and MISTI-Sun Fellowships in order to carry out my research project.

I arrived in Italy in mid-June speaking very little Italian and without a place to live. Soon enough I found someone in lab who helped me answer ads I found looking for roommates. I managed to get myself into a spacious apartment with a great view of the Leaning Tower that I shared with three students from the University. I am thoroughly indebted to them for their patience as I learned Italian. They took me out with their friends regularly, shared dinners together, and taught me so much about life in Italy. One of them even took me to Sicily to celebrate a real Italian Christmas with her family. My experience would have been completely different without this living arrangement.

While in Pisa, I discovered that travel throughout Italy and even Europe at large does not cost very much. I had the opportunity to visit many cities in Italy as well as the countries of Germany, France, Belgium, the UK, Ireland, the Czech Republic, Vatican City, Spain, Switzerland, and Austria. I traveled at times with family, old high school friends, MIT friends, new Italian friends, or young people I met while traveling through Europe. I learned an incredible amount about history, culture, and regional cuisines in all of the different places I visited. I was exposed to different ways to view the world and learned how to step out of an American cultural mindset. Regarding my research, I discovered that the work style in Italy is remarkably different from that in the US. There were many challenges along the way, so my research began to take a different form than I had originally planned. Nonetheless, it was a great experience.

Towards the end of my time abroad, I managed to find my way into a group of Erasmus students. The Erasmus program allows students in Europe to spend a year abroad in any other European country. Before this point, I had been spending my time almost exclusively with Italians which gave me a full-immersion experience but could prove frustrating as no one could appreciate the sensation of being an outsider, especially one not entirely fluent in the language. These Erasmus students and I were all equally interested in exploring Italy, could all appreciate certain seemingly bizarre elements of Italian culture, and were all operating on a similar linguistic level. I now have friends I can call upon scattered across Europe. Finding these Erasmus students colored my whole experience abroad.

My study abroad was not what I expected it to be. There were disappointments, but overall the seven months I spent overseas were wonderful. By stepping outside of my comfort zones for an extended time, I learned who I am and got to better evaluate what I want out of life. I met many unforgettable people, came to appreciate deeply another culture, became nearly fluent in another language, and did a lot of growing up. I enjoyed my experience so thoroughly that while overseas I even applied and was accepted into a PhD program in Paris which I will begin in the Fall of 2009. It's not easy to venture alone into a new country, but the challenge is worth every moment. I cannot envision my MIT experience without my summer, semester, and IAP abroad.

Olay in CAM

Olay Oyebode ’09, Electrical Engineering & Compter Science
Cambridge, England

Spent a full year at University of Cambridge studying electrical engineering

[Study Abroad : Cambridge-MIT Exchange (CME)]


"I had heard about studying abroad in Cambridge since my Campus Preview Weekend but I decided against it. I had my reasons. It was too similar to the U.S. I wanted a different experience. All those excuses went away in my sophomore year during IAP. I attended a six-day leadership training program, where I met four students from Cambridge participating in the CME exchange. During those six days, I bonded with them and they invited me to an info session about their university. I attended the info session and I was convinced that Cambridge was truly different from anything I would be able to experience at MIT.

In my time at Cambridge University, I took advantage of the moment to experience new things. I rowed for my college, Peterhouse. The rowing club at Peterhouse was a small close-knit group; being a rower formed the basis for most of my important friendships during my time in Cambridge. I bonded with the people in and outside the boat. And not just those within Peterhouse. Several times during the year, our men’s rowing club would organize a formal swap with a women’s rowing club at another college.

I also discovered that in Cambridge that there was more time to engage with philosophical and intellectually stimulating conversations. The students were from a variety of backgrounds – Classics, Languages, Engineers, Natural Scientists, Historians, etc. – and each had something new and distinct to contribute. I thoroughly enjoyed my conversations with my fellow Petreans, as members of Peterhouse are referred to, over issues such as such as the European Union, the American presidential primaries and elections and the British PM, Gordon Brown. The conversations changed my views and transformed me as a person.

I formed deep friendships, ate in a formal dinner, participated in activities I never would have done at MIT and travelled to new places. It was with sadness that I left. There were no regrets about coming over and I only wished I had had more time."
(2007-2008 Cambridge-MIT Exchange)

Rhonda in Kenya

Rhonda Jordan ’09 PhD candidate, Sustainable Energy Systems
Kipkurere, Kenya

Spent the summer in Kenya, Tanzania and Denmark researching renewable resource potential in East Africa

[Create Your Own: Combined MIT-Portugal Program resources with research]

"The MIT Portugal Program‘s Sustainable Energy Systems group focuses on meeting global energy challenges head on.  This group’s primary objective is to engage industry and government such that standard approaches, methods, and policies for improving the long-term performance of a nation's energy sector are developed, while addressing climate change and energy security concerns.
The role that the Developing World plays in providing solutions to the many global energy challenges is at the center of energy debate and conversation. The International Energy Agency (IEA) predicts that China, India, and the rest of developing Asia will be responsible for over 60% of the increase in carbon dioxide emissions between 2005 and 2030 if the industrialization process goes on unchecked. However, less focus is drawn to the tremendous potential of the non-OECD countries to contribute to greenhouse gas emissions abatement. The incentives for creating clean energy cheaply in countries without an established framework of fossil-based energy could, if permitted to flourish, make a nontrivial difference as we strive to mitigate emissions worldwide.

With the assistance of MIT Portugal funding, I was able to travel (June through August 2008) on a mission to East Africa with the United Nations Environment Program (Risoe Center) to better understand the potential of this region to increase electrification by utilizing renewable resources.  The project in which I participated, Poverty Alleviation through Cleaner Energy from Agro-Industries in Africa (PACEAA), cooperates with Greening the Tea Industry in East Africa (GTIEA) and Cogen for Africa to facilitate the effective implementation of rural electrification projects in and around interested tea factories and sugar companies, in parallel to the respective development of their small hydro and cogeneration projects.
The mission goals were to meet with key stakeholders; identify potential RE project sponsors, donors, and investors; visit selected hydro sites in Kenya and Tanzania; review policy and regulatory options; and develop business models for implementation.

The mission provided me with hands-on experience in dealing with industry and government, and it allowed me to see and experience first-hand the major energy problems afflicting developing regions of the world.  I visited rural villages to understand the energy needs of the people in places such as Kathamba, Busona, and Embeya. I also was able to meet and network with a large number of energy stakeholders, such as the ministers of energy, the energy regulatory commissions, the rural electrification agencies, UNDP, UNIDO, the major utility companies, local NGOs, and many more.  Overall, the MIT Portugal Program has provided me with an invaluable experience that has truly impacted my life and given me the impetus to move forward with the world to tackle sustainable energy challenges."

Nicole in Madrid

Becky Millson ’09, Urban Studies & Planning
Sydney, Australia

Spent her spring semester studying at the University of Sydney

[Study Abroad : IFSA-Butler, Australia]

"Once I decided to study abroad and knew I would regret not doing so, Australia was an easy decision for my destination.  I did not want to struggle with a language barrier and I had wanted to go to Australia for as long as I could remember.
I studied at the University of Sydney and took two courses related to Australian culture and history and a video production workshop for general elective credit.  Additionally, I took a marketing course for my minor.  Although credit is not guaranteed up-front, I still earned the same amount of credit as if I had been at MIT for the semester.  There is a pre-approval process and upon returning, you work with transfer credit examiners to get credit approved.  While it does takes a bit more planning and organization, it is definitely possible to fit in studying abroad while at MIT. 

My academic schedule made it convenient for me to travel extensively within Australia and to New Zealand as well as to Fiji.  These shorter trips were among my most memorable experiences during study abroad.  I did take out a personal loan for these trips so I could truly experience the country, but I feel having to now pay off the debt is worth it.

I studied abroad through a program at Butler University, who acted as a liaison for registering me as a student at the University of Sydney.  In terms of tuition and housing, I worked with the MIT Financial Aid Office to have my financial aid sent to Butler University for the semester – and it worked out great.  Butler then paid the University of Sydney for tuition and arranged my housing.

Being immersed in a different culture was an amazing opportunity.  It was truly a life-changing experience – in the five months I was away, I gained so much independence, self-confidence, cultural knowledge, and amazing memories.  It has changed how I think about my future.  Working or living in Australia is something I am seriously considering now.  I can easily say studying abroad was one of the best decisions I have ever made."

Nicole in Madrid

Nicole Koulisis ’08, Biology
Madrid, Spain

Studied at Universidad Comlutense, interned in Spanish hospitals, fenced with the Saber Fencing Club de Madrid

[Create Your Own: Combined MIT-Madrid study abroad with an internship]

“The MIT-Madrid semester was the most transformative thing that I have done at MIT.  It not only opened new cultural and intellectual perspectives, but the internships I completed in two Spanish hospital settings gave me the opportunity to see how medicine worked in a socialized system.  I became fluent in Spanish, lived Spanish culture on a daily basis with my host family, and made friendships that will last a lifetime.  Appreciating the pedagogical, social and intellectual differences between the Spanish university and MIT, making connections that will endure forever in a culture that is not my own, and viewing the U.S. from a very different perspective will shape my future perspective as a physician and as a scientist.  

The program maintained a challenging academic course load, yet it was also flexible in the sense that it gave students plenty of opportunities to travel and to explore independent activities.  For instance, studying abroad in Spain enabled me to continue fencing overseas.  I trained at the saber fencing club of Madrid, where I trained alongside and received private lessons from the finest saberists in the country (let alone, some of the finest in the world). By the end of the program, having studied at the Complutense, having interned in various urban medical environments, having fenced and made lasting friendships, I truly felt as if Spain had embraced me and had given me a glimpse of a future that awaits me there some day.  It was comforting knowing that my scholarships and financial aid package carried over into the semester abroad, and it was even more reassuring finding out that the cost of the semester abroad was significantly lower than the cost of a regular semester on campus.  Not only did I get full credit at MIT for the semester in Spain, but I enriched my education in ways that would have been impossible had I remained in Cambridge.” (MIT-Madrid and internship 2005-06)


Shammi Quddus '10, Civil & Environmental Engineering
Chittaong, Bangladesh

[Create Your Own: Secured funding through MIT PSC  for leadership and service program for high schoolers in Bangladesh, Summer 2008]

"Ironically, I learnt the most about my country after leaving it.  I am from the port city of Chittagong in Bangladesh.   During the IAP of my sophomore year, a friend and I entered a proposal for the Katheryn Wasserman Projects for Peace.  It is a contest that awards $10,000 for social service initiatives.  The project proposal was for a highly interactive and hands-on leadership and service program for high school kids in my hometown.  The project did win the award and was subsequently awarded a PSC Fellowship that covered my travel and living expenses and even paid me $10/hr after I had completed 250 hours of service work.   The experience changed my view of the society I had grown up in.

Coming to MIT, I knew I wanted my education to be used for developing Bangladesh.  However, working and growing up in Bangladesh are two very different things.  Working on the ground, I realized how privileged we are in America.  We take a lot of resources for granted that can become very big obstacles in the developing world. I found myself having to wait for hours to print a page because there is no electricity, internet access, or printing paper.  Working in the slums with the students made me think about the nature of poverty.  These scenes were not new to me – or so I thought.  I was stunned that a family of four slept on a single bed and lived in a single room.  Sixty people shared a single bathroom.   I met a family where the father had been diagnosed with renal failure but still had to go out to work to feed his family.  But I also realized that poverty is not only a lack of money or resources, they are part of a bigger deficiency.   Poverty is a lack of hope – and while development and poverty alleviation are hot words right now – we have to treat the problem holistically.

Going out in the world with little experience and only an idea can be a scary thing – it was for me.  But it was equally exciting to see something you had conceptualized making a difference in people’s lives.   This experience was another dimension of the MIT motto: learning by doing.  If you want to make a change in the world, the only way to learn is to go out to the world and do it."

Bonnie Shum

Bonnie Shum ’08, Chemical Engineering
Cambridge, England

Spent a full year at University of Cambridge studying chemical engineering

[Study Abroad : Cambridge-MIT Exchange (CME)]


“My decision to study abroad at the University of Cambridge had been one of the best I have ever made. The experience had broadened my views significantly, both as a student and as an adult. The educational system at the University of Cambridge is so different than that at MIT. While at MIT, there are various homework assignments and exams throughout the term that sums up your grade, at Cambridge, one exam at the very end of the year will determine your grade for the course. The change can be challenging but it had allowed me to sharpen my study skills and become a more independent and adaptive person.

The CME program is long established and very organized and my financial aid package remained the same as other years. On the other hand, academics vary very much between courses; as a chemical engineer, I was able to fulfill four of my major courses, along with various credits that total my credit count for the year to 96. There is also the option to fulfill HASS credit and CI-M during the year so with the appropriate planning; there should be no worries of falling behind academically.

One thing to note is that because of Cambridge calendar (trimester – 8 weeks each with 6 weeks of break in between), summer for CME students tend to be shorter so early planning is necessary to secure an internship. However, an advantage is that the breaks left plenty of time for traveling. Flights within the continent were unbelievably affordable. Over the breaks, I had the opportunity to visit the Czech Republic, Italy, Greece, Austria, Belgium, Spain, France, Ireland, Norway, and of course different parts of the United Kingdom.” ( 2006-2007 Cambridge-MIT Exchange)

Tania at Oxford

Tania Chan ’07, Materials Science and Engineering
Oxford, England

Studied at Oxford University fall semester of senior year

[Study Abroad : Materials Science and Engineering Departmental Exchange with Oxford University]

“I decided to study abroad during my senior year with the intention to better understand the that subject I am interested in. The exposure to different approaches in teaching and research at Oxford has helped me to better understand the fundamental concepts in materials science, and it has opened my mind to see the endless possibilities and methods that can be applied to one problem. The diverse and outspoken members of the university community have also exposed me to different viewpoints on world affairs from different people around the globe. The experience has not only enriched my academic career, but more importantly, has broadened my vision of the world.

I went abroad to Oxford University during the fall semester of my senior year. One of the biggest obstacle I had to face in regard to academic planning and scheduling is having to apply to graduate school from across the pond. However, I was able to ask professors for recommendation letters before I left for England, and with most applications materials now available online, the process worked out rather seamlessly. In regards to financial matters, as a departmental exchange program, I was only responsible for paying my regular MIT tuition and room and board at Oxford. The cost totaled to about the same as spending a semester at MIT, and I was able to use the normal financial aid that I receive through MIT.” (Fall 2006 Departmental Exchange)


Risha Mars ’11, Electrical Engineering & Computer Science
Beer Sheva, Israel

Interned in the field of Hyperspectral Data Analysis

[Internship: MISTI MIT-Israel internship]

"When I told my friends at MIT and my family that I would be interning in Israel over the summer, they asked, “Why do you want to go to Israel?”  When I got to Israel and introduced myself as an MIT student, originating from Trinidad, they asked, perplexed, “Why did you want to come to Israel?”  Well, I’ve always loved to travel and to explore new places, and so the MISTI program interested me since I learned about it the beginning of my freshman year.  I had never been to the Middle East before, and it was definitely a culture to which I’d never had much exposure.  I had also never had an internship before, and didn’t really know how to approach getting one abroad.  MISTI turned out to be a great solution. 

At first, I had difficulty adjusting to being away from a city and a campus that I knew, and interacting with people that spoke a language I did not understand.  Most Israelis do know some English, and once I worked up the courage to start talking to people, I also tried out a bit of my own Hebrew.  People were always very interested to find out where I was from and why I came to Israel, so I often had entertaining conversations with people on the street.  I tried to learn as much Hebrew as I could, a fun pastime very much helped by my environment.  By the end of the summer I had really grown to love the lifestyle I had developed – I had an internship that interested me, and that was very self paced, and on weekends, I would explore the country, and even order food in Hebrew.  I visited great cities, developed an obsession with falafel, hiked in beautiful deserts and even went camel riding!  The stipend provided by MISTI was definitely enough to cover food (which was much cheaper in my city than in other parts of Israel), travelling, many museums and shows, camels and of course, souvenirs.

I worked in Ben Gurion University in Beer Sheva.  Beer Sheva is Israel’s fourth largest city, and is in the Negev desert.  I interned in the field of Hyperspectral Data Analysis, where I used MATLAB to analyze satellite photos, and determine the error one would expect when looking for targets within these pictures.  I did not previously know MATLAB, and taught it to myself during the summer, which I also enjoyed - it was a skill that I always thought would be useful at MIT, but never had the time to pursue.  When I returned to MIT, I was really happy when the classes I was taking used MATLAB, as I got to make use of my new knowledge.  The summer contained just what I hoped it would – a lot of fun, new friends, knowledge of a different country, and new, useful skills!"

Emma Brunskill ’08, Graduate Student in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
Oxford, England

Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University

[Learning Abroad: Scholarship funded study abroad]

“I greatly enjoyed the Master's in Neuroscience I did at Oxford: the course was well organized, structured and I got exposed to a broad range of areas. I'm still in touch with my research supervisors from one of my rotation projects there, and I ended up continuing to collaborate with them after the course ended to finish up some research results. For me, Oxford was a time to explore a world outside of my career path so far. I was given the liberty to explore a subject outside of my undergraduate background and the time to travel extensively. But it was the people I met there that have become the most important legacy of my Oxford experience. It's nearly been 4 years since I left England and it is rare that a day goes by without me talking to at least one of the friends I made there. I continue to be inspired by these friends who come from a variety of backgrounds and study a wide range of subjects, and feel lucky that I had the opportunity to meet them.” (Rhodes Scholar, Oxford 2001-2003)

Gilad in Bangalore

Gilad Evrony ’07, Brain and Cognitive Science
Bangalore, India

Developed a system to improve tracking the health of children around Bangalore

[Internship: MISTI MIT-India public service internship]

“I think it was around junior year that it occurred to me that although MIT is one of the best places in the world to learn how to solve problems, many of the world's most pressing problems were not at MIT. MIT International Science and Technology Initiatives (MISTI) MIT-India found an opportunity to work with the Kushal Foundation, a non-profit organization providing free primary health care for children and prenatal women living in the slums of Bangalore and surrounding villages. I was hosted by Shama Karkal, Kushal's program director in Bangalore, and I was treated like a true member of the family. Being hosted by Shama and her wonderful family was one of the main reasons why my trip to India was so enjoyable as well as an incredible learning experience. I

At Kushal I was involved in several projects, through which I experienced personal growth and learned from individuals from diverse cultures a greater sensitivity to the different ways people view health and medicine. I programmed in MS-Access a patient information system which… allows Kushal to assess the efficacy of its health interventions, to create reports on disease incidence and many other health indicators, and to generate notices for overdue immunizations and health checkups for malnourished children.I also helped start an HIV-AIDS community awareness program in the Neelasandra slums… It was wonderful to experience globalization in full-force in Bangalore, from “dosas” (a local food) wrapped in a newspaper advertising jobs in Google, to the Kushal Foundation itself that was founded by pioneers of Bangalore's IT industry. This experience was a tremendously satisfying and meaningful experience - a chance to do good.”  (MIT-India 2006 summer public service internship)
[Read more of Gilad’s blog about working and living in India]

Reid in Munich

Reid Allen ’09, Mechanical Engineering
Munich, Germany

Designed race car parts for BMW motorsports

[Internship: Independent internship with support from MISTI MIT-Germany]

“It all started back on Tuesday the 14th of March, 2006 when I received an email with the subject line stating simply “Internship with BMW Motorsport.”  I couldn't believe what I was reading.  I had been offered an internship in Munich, Germany working for the best of the best in the racing business.  I have always been interested in motorsport, having raced go karts for much of my childhood and being  a leader on MIT's Formula SAE racing team, but this was simply too good to be true.  As things progressed, it became apparent that this would be much more than the typical internship or study abroad experience. 

I would work for 12 full months, starting in September of 2006 and ending in August of 2007.  This would require me to take a full year break from classes at MIT, but that decision was not at all a difficult one.  I had been taking German language classes for the sole purpose of someday being able to work in the racing industry in Germany, and when the opportunity arose, I just couldn't  pass it up.  Though I had procured the position somewhat independently, I got immediately in contact with Sigrid Berka from the MIT Germany program, who helped me a tremendous amount.  She helped with the work permits, visas, arranged health insurance, housing, and even booked me a flight to Munich with help from Lufthansa!  Sigrid really took a lot of the stress out of the process.  Financing the trip was not hard either, as I would be paid a monthly stipend from BMW.  It was less than I could earn in America comparatively, but it was plenty to live on each month, and still have enough left over to fund my travels across Europe.

When I arrived in Munich, I expected to have a period of adjustment where I would just be introduced to BMW and have orientations and the like, but they actually put me right to work.  On my first day I got my ID badge, my computer, and my phone.  The next day I was given my first assignment: a steel and carbon fiber underbody panel for the Z4 M Coupe endurance racecar.  I knew I was in the right place.  Since then I've designed numerous parts for several different BMW racecars including the aforementioned Z4, the 320si that competes in the World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) and the MINI Cooper S racecar that is the basis for the MINI Challenge racing series.  I work in a group of roughly 10 engineers that do all the mechanical design work for all BMW Motorsport racecars.  We design basically everything except for the actual internals of the engines.  I've designed suspension pieces, aerodynamic parts, and chassis parts, and I was even put in charge of designing the entire next generation cooling system on the Z4.  The experience has been incredible in every sense of the word, but last month, it got even better.  I would be going with the team to the Nuerburgring, one of the most demanding racing circuits in the world.” (2006-07 one year internship facilitated by MIT-Germany)

Carlos in Germany

Hadi Zaklouta ’09, Materials Science & Engineering

Interned for Osram Opto Semiconductors

[Internship: MISTI MIT-Germany internship]

"The internship at Osram Opto Semiconductors in Germany was in a very industrial environment, so research was extremely focused and well defined. As such, it was perhaps a bit less flexible in terms of direction the projects could take. The working environment in Germany was more relaxed though and work hours were not as harsh as in the US.

I was working on improving the extraction efficiency of high brightness white LEDs. As a Material Scientist I was commissioned with the task of designing LED architecture and testing a new set of high refractive index polysiloxanes. I learned that Engineering is more creative than it seems at first glance! The life of a materials engineer does entail a design element and is not just focused around testing materials.

As a result of the internship I was able to build a network of PhD graduates that gave me helpful tips as to where I could apply to in Germany for graduate studies. It was a great source of contacts for my future academic career.” (MIT-Germany summer student internship)

Mish in Haifa

Mish Madsen '09, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
Haifa, Israel

Worked on collaborative technology at IBM Research Labs

[Internship: Hibur: The Technion-MIT Link]

“This summer, I was lucky enough to be able to travel to Israel under the auspices of Hibur, a collaborative initiative between MIT and the Technion (also known as "the MIT of Israel.") My experiences were an excellent complement to my time at MIT so far: I had a huge number of chances to use my software engineering knowledge as well as the problem-solving skills that MIT teaches so well. The program that I traveled with was incredibly good at answering my questions efficiently and quickly, and I had no trouble with organizing my summer trip in my free time in the spring. My trip to Israel was a life-changing experience. I was able to travel the country on the weekends, and my standard workweek allowed me plenty of time to explore Haifa in the evenings, including spending lots of time at the beach and attending regular on-campus salsa lessons. My internship covered the cost of my plane trips and paid me a standard wage comparable to my American offers; the housing and food costs were significantly cheaper than they would have been in Boston. This was an experience that I would recommend without hesitation to anyone interested in broadening their perspective, seeing the world, and getting excellent, meaningful work experience as well.” (Summer 2007 internship facilitated through Hibur)
Internships in Israel are now faciltated by the MIT-Israel Program as part of MISTI

George in Tokyo

George Lee, PhD Candidate, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
Tokyo, Japan

Researched mobile networks at NTT DoCoMo’s Network Research Labs

[Internship: MISTI MIT-Japan research internship]

“I first became interested in Japan due to its fascinating culture, blending East and West, old and new. When I found out about the MIT Japan program and heard about the wonderful experiences of past interns, I decided it would be the perfect opportunity to experience life in this unique and amazing country.

I wanted to find an internship at a company where I would have a chance to work on cutting-edge research and encounter new ideas, so I was delighted when the MIT Japan program arranged an internship for me at NTT DoCoMo's Network Research Labs. Since my research interest is in wireless and mobile networks, this was a perfect match for me. My first day of work, they gave me my own keitai (that's Japanese for mobile phone). I spent hours playing with different functions, games, and other applications installed on it like the millions of Japanese who spend hours on the train every day completely immersed in their keitai... it's so exciting knowing the research going on at my company has such a big impact on people's lives!

The work environment here is fantastic. My coworkers are willing to help with almost anything, from picking me up at the train station and taking me to my dorm my first night in Japan, to helping me make travel arrangements for a vacation. We have lots of social events at my company, too, such as a pool tournament, an outing to see a Noh show, a summer festival with live music performed by DoCoMo employees, and of course, plenty of nomikai (parties)! My working hours are reasonable, I have some freedom in choosing research projects, and most of the people here have fairly good English skills so I can communicate even when my Japanese fails me.

One thing I love about Japan is the food.… Oh and the desserts... I just wish they came in larger portions!...” (MIT-Japan 2004 six month research internship)
[Read more of Geroge’s story about working and living in Japan]

Mustafa in Niger

Mustafa Dafalla '09, Civil and Environmental Engineering
Niger, Africa

Part of a research team that developed and tested a natural insecticide to reduce cases of malaria

[Research: Internatianal UROP (IROP)]

"I came to MIT knowing that I wanted to make an impact but was not sure how. After speaking to several professors I found a project that seemed like a perfect fit, and would later help me decide on my course of study.

During the summers of 2006 and 2007, I traveled to Niger to work on an integrated environmental approach to dealing with malaria. In a very short time leading up to the first trip I learned a considerable amount about mosquito entomology and about the disease in general. I learned about what were the various factors that made the disease difficult to eradicate, and the pros and cons of current intervention methods. During my first trip we formulated an idea on how to deal with the problem and came back the next year to put our theories into practice. We proposed the use of the crushed seeds of a ubiquitous tree. This tree (neem) has insecticidal properties, and we could use the powder from the crushed seeds and apply it to stagnant water pools. In addition to this we sought to level larger pools in order to increase infiltration and thus have them disappear faster. In this way we could eliminate the breeding grounds of the mosquitoes that transmit the disease.

Initially it was intimidating to be going to place that I knew nothing about and where I didn't speak the language. In addition to this I was also the youngest person on the team. However the professor and PhD student who I worked with were very encouraging and assisted me with everything I needed. In the end it was very satisfying to know that I was making a real and lasting impact in the lives of the villagers and potentially the citizens of the entire country.

The UROP office, the Public Service Center (PSC), and the IDEAS competition, were all extremely helpful in providing the funding for the trip and are wonderful resources for helping make your dreams a reality." (2006 and 2007 summer IROP and IDEAS 2007 winner)

Biyeun in uganda

Biyeun Buczyk ’10, Electrical Engineering & Computer Science
Uganda, Africa

Making computers and IT available to schools and businesses as part of Computers for Uganda

[Public Service: Public Service Fellowship]

“I was first introduced to the Computers for Uganda (CFU) Project by my high school’s computer science teacher, Rod Thompson, in 2004. I did a few minor things to help out with the project my sophomore year, but I became fully involved as a junior—going to Uganda for the first time as a student technical leader of the 2005 CFU team.

After the first visit I was hooked. The lush, green beautiful countryside made me feel right at home, as I’m from Washington State, and the Ugandan people, especially the students I met at the schools, were so inspirational—many faced incredible hardships at such a young age, yet still held onto the hope that they could change their world. Since then I’ve been determined to share with them the technology that has helped me so much in my own life—the computer, but more specifically the Internet. Although CFU could only set up the computer labs without an Internet connection, as the years have gone by, many of the labs are starting to gain access. My hope is that in the near future, not only will every school lab have an Internet connection, but anyone in Uganda will have access, and at a much lower cost than it’s currently available for at the moment.

This summer will mark my third time back to Uganda. I will be there for two months, from June 1st until August 1st, working on the initial set up of the InterConnection Uganda computer refurbishing warehouse, and on the curriculum that will eventually be taught by computer science students and professionals at the center. I must thank first and foremost the MIT Public Service Center for awarding me a PSC fellowship which is paying for my travel expenses to Uganda—without this I probably would not have been able to go. I also have to thank Honorable John Nsambu, Uganda’s first Minister of Information and Communications Technology, who will be taking time out of his busy schedule to make accommodations for me while I’m in Uganda.” (Summer 2007 PSC Fellowship)
[Read more of Biyeun’s blog about her experiences in Uganda]

Tish in Tanzania

Tish Scolnik ’10, Mechanical Engineering
Tanzania, Africa

Worked at a wheelchair workshop testing her design of a folding three-wheeled wheelchair

[Public Service: Public Service Fellowship]

Excerpts from: “July 16-19, 2007- A Week in Review”

“I don’t even know where to start because far too much has happened this week! Here are my top ten highlights from this week (in no particular order):

1.Visited Emmanuel, a 12 year old boy who was housebound since birth because of a disability, but is now able to attend school because of a wheelchair provided by Mobility Care. When we asked him what he wanted more than anything he said “education.” Unfortunately, while the wheelchair allows him to attend school now, some of the other children are not very nice to him. We are looking into finding him a sponsor so he can attend a school in Dar es Salaam which is only for disabled children. It’s the same school where Daniel received his education and he turned out pretty amazing!

2.Returned to Moshi to visit Peter, the user who was testing our prototype. He was really pleased with the chair and offered some especially helpful feedback. He even pushed himself all the way to town and back in the chair which we clocked to be at least 15km each way! Peter was really an inspiration and I hope that I will be able to stay in contact with him. He’s an avid wheelchair tennis player and will be part of an exhibition at the PAWBA (Pan African Wheelchair Builders Association) 4th All African Wheelchair Congress this September, which I’m hoping to attend! …

5.Took my folding wheelchair prototype on the daladala with me. Our test users have taken the chair on public transportation, but I’ve never been around for that. In order to reach Usa River to meet with Edmund at the center we had to take the chair on the bus. It was interesting to see how the conductor reacted to the chair, where he wanted to stow it, and what the other passengers thought. The wheels slide easily under the seat and chair itself can be placed comfortably in the front row against the bench, or even on the lap of the user himself.

6.Went to Abdullah’s house to meet with his wife who wanted to teach me how to cook Tanzanian food. Fatima was so excited and really put on quite a show. Her and Abdullah agreed that I couldn’t cook Tanzanian food unless I was wearing Tanzanian clothing, so after donning a piece of kanga we got to work. I explained that I really didn’t know much about cooking at all, so she gave me all the easy jobs like slicing the tomatoes and washing the coconuts. We cooked a large beef stew and a cabbage salad, but the pinnacle of the event was learning how to cook ugali, one of the most traditional Tanzanian foods. Made from ground maize and water, I can only describe it as a very stiff porridge. And it’s so filling! I felt so full after eating that I nearly had a food coma and Fatima insisted that I take “a small rest” before heading back to Arusha. It was certainly an unforgettable afternoon! …” (Summer 2007 PSC Fellowship)
[Read more of Tish’s blog about her experiences in Tanzania]

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