Charles Bowman

Hometown: Muskegon, MI
College: Engineering
Major: Mechanical Engineering
Degree Bachelor's

During the summer of 2013, I took part in a service trip to Port-au-Prince, Haiti that vastly exceeded my expectations. I expected to experience an unfamiliar world unlike my own, but I did not expect for it to change my career plans. While in Haiti, I was able to volunteer in a free prosthesis center for local underprivileged families, particularly children. This experience resulted in my desire to go into the healthcare field as an engineer, and I have remained on that path since. While one past international trip changed the trajectory of my life, another is right around the corner, and the Gilman Scholarship is making it happen. For this trip, I will be traveling halfway across the world to study at Shanghai Jiao Tong University in Shanghai, China.

The Shanghai Jiao Tong Engineering Term Abroad (ETA SJTU) program will provide me with a global experience in an increasingly globalized world, crucial to my career goals. SJTU is one of the top technical schools in the world.  As the interconnectedness of the world increases, experience with a global power such as China would be incredibly valuable. The ETA SJTU program exposes students to a diversified team environment with plant tours and project information sessions at local companies.  Language is another key element in the experience. Not only will I be taking courses on the Chinese language, but I will be surrounded by it on a daily basis, interacting with locals during my full spring semester.

Despite the numerous benefits of this program, it will not be without challenges. The differences between American and Chinese culture are beyond extensive. From the languages to simple gestures, adapting to this foreign culture will prove to be a daunting task. Preparing for the trip, I have already learned some useful cultural and linguistic facts. For example, there are over 20,000 more Chinese alphabet characters than English alphabet characters, and it is impolite to leave tips at restaurants. Needless to say, I have a plethora to learn about the language and culture before I depart.

The Shanghai Jiao Tong University Engineering Term Abroad program through Purdue University will provide me with opportunities unlike any other, and the Gilman scholarship is a crucial stepping stone to make it happen. I will be able to experience a completely unfamiliar culture and language, while being educated at one of the top tier technical universities in the world and developing professionally. I am confident the ETA SJTU program will leave me changed unlike any other experience could.

 

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