Xiaodian Xie

Xiaodian Xie, an electrical engineering major from Canton, China enjoys exploring different countries and cultures. That's why he eagerly joined Okan Ersoy, professor of electrical and computer engineering, for a study abroad course in Istanbul and Bodrum, Turkey. He studied machine learning and pattern recognition with 11 other students. They also swam in the Aegean Sea, visited a spice bazaar and explored many cultural attractions, such as the Topkapi Palace, the Blue Mosque, the House of the Virgin Mary and Ephesus, which is considered the best preserved Greco-Roman classical city on the Mediterranean Sea.

Age: 21
Hometown: Canton, China
Major: Electrical engineering
Career goal: Graduate school followed by professional employment
Favorite pastime: Hiking and fishing
One thing most people don't know: Enjoys attending operas. He last saw "The Merry Widow" in Chicago.

Why he studied abroad: "I wanted to visit the many historical places in Istanbul. I also was able to get three credits for my major in only one month. There's no pressure; it's not stressful."

Highlight of the trip: "We took a boat tour into Asia where there's a castle on top of a hill. We climbed up a couple of hundred meters. It was not easy, but I got up the second fastest."

Favorite attraction: "The Blue Mosque, which is the biggest mosque in the world. A regular mosque has four towers, but this one had six. It was beautiful, especially with the sun reflecting off of it."

Trip benefits: "The 12 students who went are now close friends. This was a special opportunity outside of class since we lived and toured together. There were two guys from the Middle East. I'm taking Arabic now and talking to them in their first language."

Where he'd like to travel next: "If I could, I'd go to South Africa, because the World Cup will be there in July."

On whether he'd recommend studying abroad: "Yes, it's a different experience in a whole other country. I'm already an international student, but students don't always get this opportunity."

By Marydell Forbes