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BU Abroad: Guadalajara, Mexico

Engineering south of the border


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The video above gives a glimpse of Guadalajara and how Meredith Duffy (ENG’11), Ian Leatherman (ENG’11), Minori Shimizu (ENG’11), Paul Vermilion (ENG’11), and fellow students managed to stay focused on engineering while encountering Mexico.

With only three weeks left in last spring’s study abroad program in Guadalajara, Mexico, the now-famous H1N1 (swine) flu outbreak rocked the globe. Mexico was targeted as ground zero, so instead of taking a group trip to Guanajuato before heading home after final exams, 13 Boston University engineering students booked flights and booked it home.

“It was disappointing,” says Meredith Duffy (ENG’11). “I made so many good friends during this experience, and I didn’t have the chance to say good-bye to everyone.”

Foreign immersion — even when cut short — is an unusual opportunity for engineering students. In most universities, engineering class requirements cannot be fulfilled in international programs. Many adamant about a semester or a year abroad do it by extending their undergraduate time, taking classes for an extra semester or a summer.

Boston University’s approach is different. All classes in the programs offered in Guadalajara, Dresden, and Tel Aviv fulfill the engineering core requirements, so students don’t fall behind academically.

After studying in Guadalajara, Duffy, a Beckman scholar conducting research on cell sheet engineering, is considering working abroad. “I’ve become proficient in Spanish, and through networking with my Mexican friends, it seems much more of a possibility than a dream,” she says.

“That’s the point of studying abroad,” says Paul Vermilion (ENG’11). “It opens your eyes to a world of social and career opportunities, and future employers will look positively on this experience.”

The travel bug has bitten Ian Leatherman (ENG’11) as well. An academic instruction officer for Navy ROTC at BU, he hopes to participate in a foreign exchange program next summer with his unit.

“Mexico taught me a lot,” Leatherman says. “I’ve learned to live with what I need, rather than what I want. And the friendships I made there were genuine; I was treated like a member of the family.”

According to Minori Shimizu (ENG’11), who spent her summer globetrotting around Japan, Australia, and New Zealand, living abroad is an essential education. “I was frustrated when I first arrived in Guadalajara,” says Shimizu. “It was difficult to adjust to a new culture and a different pace. But I eventually got it, and then learned to love it. Every college student should do this; it’s about growing up.”

Robin Berghaus can be reached at berghaus@bu.edu.

Next week, another foreign visit. Read more at BU Abroad.


2 Comments on BU Abroad: Guadalajara, Mexico

  • Elena on 10.14.2009 at 9:52 am

    You should’ve stayed. I was in Guanajuato during the swine flu freakout, and I stayed clear through to July–it blew over.

    But I agree with the sentiment. Go abroad and broaden your mind. It’s worth it.

  • Anonymous on 11.09.2009 at 7:12 am

    Is this article serious? The students studying abroad learn nothing, and come back horribly unprepared for the rest of the engineering classes they face. This program is one of the problems tarnishing BU engineering, and its being touted as something positive?

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