Semester Study Abroad: Part 3 of 4

As a member of the Office of Professional Practice’s Global Engineering Alliance for Research and Education or GEARE program, I must complete an international research or internship experience prior to graduation.  I can chose to fulfill this requirement in any country that I would like to, but I chose to look for opportunities to extend my time in Colombia.  Thanks to a very proud Purdue industrial engineering alum originally from Medellín, I was connected with Grupo Nutresa.  Grupo Nutresa is a food processing conglomerate and the fourth largest food company in all of Latin America in terms of market capitalization.  It also is consistently named one of the best companies to work for in Colombia.  I successfully completed an interview in Spanish with one of Grupo Nutresa’s divisions, Compañía Nacional de Chocolates, and was hired as an operations intern for the summer of 2015.

Marissa (on right) with her supervisor

For my internship, I worked in a smaller town outside of Medellín named Rionegro in Compañía Nacional de Chocolates’ largest production facility.  I lived many students’ dream, and for ten weeks I worked in a chocolate factory.  The factory produces a wide array of products focused on chocolate, nuts, and cereal bars.  I was concentrated in the nuts zone.

My internship was so valuable, for both my professional and personal development.  I received the normal benefits of putting my engineering education into practice and gaining work experience, but I also learned much more than that.  I developed enough of a technical vocabulary in Spanish that I am now able to comfortably write technical reports or give presentations in Spanish.  I learned how to relate to and work with coworkers who not only spoke a different language than me, but who also were accustomed to an entirely different work and professional culture than mine.  In fact, it was an invaluable lesson for me in being flexible and adaptable to the professional situation I am placed in.  I also had the opportunity to work on a joint project between research and development and operations and was able to put my English fluency to good use as I served as the sole point of contact with a United States based provider for a new raw material. 

As an intern, I was given a large amount of responsibility and allowed to work on activities that branched outside of my field of study.  I also have made great international contacts for a potential career in South America.  And all of this was made possible through the Purdue network.

International Student Graduates Q&A: Question 3

How has your Purdue experience in engineering prepared you for your professional life?

Siddharth Chhabra – IE Graduate: The Purdue engineering experience laid a strong foundation to build on and prepared me to excel in a fast-moving, innovative and challenging work environment. It provided a very hands-on and practical educational experience and helped me develop key skills allowing me to be an asset to my employer.

Xianzhe Zhou – ECE Graduate: The academic rigor of Purdue Engineering has really prepared me technically for a real world job. I was able to apply what I learned at school to various internships and also learned new skills quickly benefited from my Purdue engineering experience. The amount and the variation of team projects at Purdue equipped me with a basic understanding of the do’s and don’ts in a team situation. I am so thankful for these experiences because they really make a difference between the best engineer and an average one.

Niharika Chaubey -Chem. E Graduate: Purdue Engineering I can safely say is one of the most grueling experiences. With all the weed out classes, and immense competition, it was not easy to graduate with a good GPA, but smart and hard work pays. I feel like having gone through that, I am prepared to face the world. I would not be arrogant and say, I am absolutely ready, but I will say I am definitely ready for any challenges that might be thrown my way.

Sajit Chitty – IE graduate: The value behind an engineering degree from Purdue is appreciated once you understand that the rigorous curriculum goes beyond teaching g students theory and the respective practical applications, it teaches students how to think critically. I have started to approach decisions, whether personal or professional, with a more analytical approach. I have learned to be more systematic with observations and developed practice in logically structuring my thoughts and ideas. It may be amusing to note that my sole intention of studying engineering was not to just become an engineer. I wanted to learn how to think like an engineer, and further develop my analytical mindset since this is useful in any technical field. In addition, our professors and advisors at Purdue have always emphasized the need to keep constantly learning, in order to stay up-to-date in the field or in any focus area. I have found myself taking this advice to heart, and made it a point to spend some of my free time reading and subscribing to certain fields of interest, and have been pleased with the overall competitive edge that such efforts bring.

Brandon Puccio -AAE Graduate: I think Purdue did a good job preparing me for professional life. While I do not use a lot of my technical knowledge in my current job, I do use a lot of the skills that I learned at Purdue. Purdue taught me to work hard and to learn quickly. I am able to pick up on new material immediately and work at it until I am knowledgeable and useful to my employer. Some of the other skills Purdue helped me learn  are good communication and presentation skills, group work, collaboration, and organization skills. All of these skills were touched upon in many different engineering classes. Each skill was well practiced and perfected by graduation. Purdue helped me grow from a high school student to a professional.

Mayank Makkar: Getting the hang of interning

Co-op! Internship! Work! Money! These are all the words that come to mind when most people hear about any career fair, but one thing that most of us forget about is what will we be doing at work and how the people are over there. Nobody knows the answer to these questions, because until you are at the plant, office etc., you don’t really know what you will be doing. You do have an idea, but you still don’t really know. It was the same for me, and fortunately, it was exactly the kind of work that I like. My internship taught me many things. One of the many important things I learned from my internship was how to deal with people.

At my internship, I had various kinds of projects. I was planning events, creating the strategies for plant wide audits, creating guidebooks for team managers, etc. Because of the wide variety of projects I was able to work on, I got to work with lots of different people. I worked with people from the corporate leadership, administrative assistants, technicians, interns, operators etc. Working with each one of them was completely different; each person had a different background, style of doing things etc. Some people did things like I like to do them, while some were completely opposite. Some did things without me asking twice, some had to be asked a lot more times. Overall, I think the key to working with so many different kinds of people is to understand who they are and how they work. You have to know if they will need to be reminded about what you asked them to do or if it will be done before you even think about asking them about their progress. For me, it was a little hard at the beginning, but eventually I got the hang of it.

In a nutshell, I think taking that internship taught me a lot. It did teach me about things related to engineering, but it also taught me a lot about one thing that most of us engineers don’t really think about until the very end: people.

Semester Study Abroad: Part 2 of 4

Hello again,

Recently I published a blog post briefly describing the academic side of my semester abroad in Medellín, Colombia.  Although studying was an important part of my semester, I was able to create an entirely new and different experience with the activities I did outside of class.

Las Lajas Sanctuary
Las Lajas Sanctuary

Normally study abroad students take advantage of their time in their host country to travel, and I was no exception.  From the beautiful beaches of Cartagena to the ornate Las Lajas Sanctuary in Ipiales, and the salsa clubs in Cali to the unique small towns of Antioquia, I was constantly amazed at the natural and manmade wonders of Colombia.  Even the backdrop of the Andes Mountains makes Medellin, a city with a population almost equivalent to that of Chicago, appear absolutely stunning.  Travelling in Colombia is also surprisingly inexpensive.  One night two other Purdue students and I shared a hotel room for the equivalent of two dollars per person!  I highly recommend visiting Colombia to everyone, regardless of your budget.  But traveling was not my only extracurricular activity.

Playa Blanca in Cartagena
Playa Blanca in Cartagena

Many Purdue students are unaware that Purdue University has created an extensive agreement with businesses, governmental agencies, universities, and nonprofit organizations in Colombia to complete a variety of projects benefitting both Colombians and Boilermakers alike.  If you are interested in learning more, refer to the Colombia-Purdue Institute.  The Purdue Corporate and Global Partnerships also has the director of Colombian Partnerships and Engagement Office stationed in the beautiful, modern RutaN building in Medellín.  There, in a black and gold decorated office, Liliana Gomez Diaz works as the main point of communication for Purdue in the country.  Liliana hosts visitors from Purdue and other universities that are working on projects in Colombia.  She organizes efforts for initiatives across the country.  Liliana even helps connect past and current Boilermakers with each other and the resources they need.


In our first month in Medellin, Liliana invited the Purdue-EAFIT cohort to visit her at the Purdue office and treated us to a typical Colombian lunch.  At this meeting she began describing all of the amazing projects that Purdue is working on in Colombia.  I believe we were all amazed that our beloved Purdue was doing so much that its students are unaware of.  From this meeting, I was connected with two groups that helped shape my time in Medellin. 

The first of these is a research group in the Universidad de Antioquia.  The group is comprised of PhD and post-doc candidates in chemistry and chemical engineering.  All of them know English very well, but were looking for a way to practice their speaking skills.  Because of this, myself and two other Purdue students, Paul Krogmeier and Desarae Diedrich, began teaching an English class once a week focused on pronunciation, word choice, professional writing, and conversational speaking.  In exchange, the students offered dance lessons in salsa, merengue, and vallenato among other Latin styles of dance.

The second group Liliana connected me with is a group of Colombian students who participated in Project Interchange.  Project Interchange is an initiative working to bring more STEM education to the low-income areas of Medellin.  Free STEM classes taught by university professors, professionals, and even some Purdue graduate students (via Skype) are offered at local libraries.  As a reward for attending the classes and completing various other requirements, a small group of students has the opportunity to travel cost-free to Purdue to tour campus laboratories, interact with Purdue professors and students, and learn more about the possibilities in STEM fields.  For many students, this is their first major trip outside of Medellín and for nearly all, their first time in the United States.  The first cohort of students to visit Purdue arrived in July of 2014.  Upon their return, they had a strong desire to continue learning and practicing English, but found it difficult to find people to talk to.

Very soon after my arrival in Medellin, this group of students became my second English class.  Mark Adams, a fellow Boilermaker, and I spent about two hours each week teaching basic level English to these students in the Purdue office.  Because of our shared love for Purdue and Medellín, the students, Mark, and I found that we truly enjoyed our time together.  Soon we were meeting outside of class to visit the neighborhoods where the students live and the library where the Project Interchange classes were taught.  We also explored the city on mopeds and spent evenings in local parks together.  Throughout this time I watched as their English and my Spanish improved, and these students became some of my best friends in Colombia.

Thanks to my travels and the two English classes I was able to add another dimension of learning and fun to my study abroad experience.  I highly recommend to anyone studying abroad to seek out extra-curricular activities that are challenging and give another insight into the local culture.

-Marissa Berns

Feature Interview: Minority Engineering Program

Name: Elizabeth Suazo Flores

Year: I just finish my second year at Purdue

Major: PhD in Mathematics Education

Hometown: Chile

What program(s) are you involved in?

ABC summer camp

Tell me a little bit about this program?

What do you do for this program?

I’m teaching calculus

What is your favorite part of the program?

My favorite part of the program is working with the students. I love helping them  understand a little bit more about what  mathematics is.

Why did you get involved in this program?

First, since I am from a different country and English is not my native language I feel like I am part of the minority groups in US. Second, I wanted to have experience teaching in US but at the same time I wanted to help students to excel in mathematics.

How has this program affected you as an engineering student?

Would you recommend this program to incoming students?

I  believe that this program is a great opportunity to experience the university environment. Students have the chance to learn the basic college subjects  and at the same time  make friends that could become their emotional and academic support in their college life.

Do you have any advice for incoming minority engineering students?

Have fun and work hard because you already have everything to be successful! You deserve  to be fat Purdue and Purdue deserves you.

Did you participate in a similar program when you were younger, and if so, how did it benefit you?

How has MEP or this program benefited you academically and professionally?

First, this program feeds my passion, which is teaching mathematics. Second, it helps me become more aware  of the students’ needs and thinking, which is connected to one of my research interestsin mathematics education.

What other organizations are you involved in on campus?

What elements of this program do you wish were available to you when you were that age?

How has MEP supported you throughout your time on campus?

So what do you plan to do professionally?

Get my PhD, hopefully find a job in my hometown university, and create a research center in mathematics education. I envision that this center will receive people that want to do research in this area but at the same time be a place in which teachers, K-12 students, and future teachers can feel supported in the teaching and learning of mathematics. The sky is the limit!

Semester Study Abroad: Part 1 of 4

Hola Future and Fellow Boilermakers,

My name is Marissa Berns, and I will be a senior this fall.  I am originally from southwest Iowa and am majoring in Industrial Engineering and minoring in Global Engineering Studies.  I am also working to complete the program for the Certificate in Entrepreneurship and Innovation.  I would like to share with you a small part of my Purdue experience in a series of blog posts to be published in the upcoming weeks.

Throughout my time at Purdue, I have had so many wonderful experiences.  I have made a great group of friends and future contacts and enjoyed learning at the best university on earth.  However, one of the most valuable experiences Purdue has given to me took place nearly 2500 miles away from West Lafayette.

The vice that Marissa made

Beginning in January of 2015 I began an exciting adventure in the city of Medellín, Colombia as a member of the first cohort of Purdue students to participate in a semester study abroad at Universidad EAFIT.  While there, the group of five Boilermakers studying industrial, mechanical, computer, and civil engineering participated in the first English-taught engineering classes at the university.  In my four classes (that all count towards my major at Purdue), I learned so much from my professors and classmates about manufacturing engineering, Spanish, and the Colombian culture.  The class sizes were small and the laboratories very hands-on.  In one class I even learned how to use a lathe, a mill, a drill press, and a grinding machine using both the English and Spanish vocabulary.  For our semester project, a partner and I utilized all of these machines, plus a lesson in foundry, to create a small vice.  Although I spent many hot hours in the machine shop, I now have a sense of pride for what I was able to create, and that I was able to learn enough vocabulary to complete my final presentation in Spanish.

Universidad EAFIT also provided us with great resources both in and out of class.  We were offered free Spanish classes and a free dance lesson at the beginning of the semester.  Additionally we had access to wonderful bilingual employees in the Office of International Relations who helped us change our schedules, showed us the best places to hike, and even went with us to doctors’ appointments to help us feel more comfortable.  They also arranged times for us to meet the heads of our individual schools, the dean of engineering, and the president of the university.

The engineering building at EAFIT

This unique academic experience would not have been possible without the continued commitment Purdue has for developing new global opportunities for its students and the significant connection that the university is expanding with the organizations and universities of Colombia.  My semester also would not have been as amazing as it was without the continual work of Universidad EAFIT and its dedication to making the international student experience a pleasant one.

Until next time,


International Student Graduates Q&A: Question 2

What resources did you use to succeed in your studies while at Purdue? 

Brandon Puccio -AAE Graduate: To remain successful at Purdue, I always used office hours. It is one thing to do the homework and get a correct answer, it is another to understand the work and gain knowledge from the problems. I used office hours even when I thought I could do the problems myself. The TAs and Professors were always helpful and willing to explain a problem to me. I also think that attending classes and any supplemental instruction helped me a lot. I can’t be expected to remember the material If I never went to class and learned it. Another method I used was to review for exams every day. Each lesson that I had, I would review the main concepts and ensure that I understand them. This helped me feel less overwhelmed when a test came up. I felt like I studied already. I never felt unprepared. One thing I never did is sacrifice a chance to learn. I tried to finish my work and understand the material before I stopped learning. A good understanding of the knowledge will help you recall it later and do better on tests and when you need the knowledge in your career.

Siddharth Chhabra-IE Graduate: I leveraged the help of my professors during office hours to understand various concepts. I also participated in peer-to-peer discussion and study groups to reinforce others.

Xianzhe Zhou-ECE Graduate:  The key to my academic success at Purdue really came down to understanding the course materials. Remember, there are no stupid questions. There are many people whom you can ask your question, such as your teammates, your teaching assistants, and your professors. There also are many online resources where you can find relevant information. Once you understand one course, try to connect the dots to previous courses. By doing so, you would have a better understanding of the whole field.

Niharika Chaubey -Chem. E Graduate: I honestly studied a lot alone, but I did utilize office hours whenever needed. I never employed professional tutors, but did work in groups whenever something was harder than usual to finish.

Sajit Chitty – IE graduate: Purdue has always had a wide variety of resources available to its students. For example one of my favorite resources, which also happens to be available to the public, and not just to students, is the Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL).  Irrespective of your major, it is imperative for students to be well versed in the different methods, styles and formats of both technical and non-technical writing. I have used this resource from writing English papers to writing engineering project reports: the complete gamut. Another resource that proved to be an immense help were the Teaching Assistant(s) office hours. I would make it a point to attend TA hours, especially if I had already spent time on new material and found some of the concepts difficult to grasp. Since the Teaching Assistants are also students who had recently and successfully completed the respective courses, it was easier for them relate to difficult areas. However, this does not mean that Professors’ office hours were not equally helpful. In some of my courses, I would find myself spending more time making use of Professor’s hours than TA hours, if I was keen on discussing certain topics in more detail, or , if I wanted to get a more high level grasp of the course, and perhaps get feedback on how I can best improve my progress.

Society of Women Engineers (Catie Cowden, Treasurer)

*Snap!* Has it really already been three years? Am I really a senior already? It certainly doesn’t feel like it, but it’s true! Three years ago, I entered Purdue University as a freshman in First Year Engineering with the full intent to become a Biomedical Engineer and then pursue medical school. One semester of honors chemistry later, however, I realized that I wanted to look into my options a little more.

SWE members enjoying a round of bowling
SWE members enjoying a round of bowling

I had been paired with an upperclassman mentor from the Society of Women Engineers SWEetie Sidekick program, so I decided to get her opinion on the different opportunities at Purdue. She started my thinking on Industrial Engineering, and as I began attending more SWE events with her, I learned more about Mechanical, Electrical, and all other branches of engineering.

Throughout the year, I attended many more SWE events, and I started falling in love with the organization. There were pottery painting socials, intramural sports, community service events, and professional networking opportunities. I signed up to be an office assistant for one of the current SWE officers, and I got to work with her as she organized that semester’s Senior Sleepover (where high school seniors stay on campus for a weekend).

I even had the opportunity to attend the Regional SWE Conference at the University of Minnesota. At this conference, I realized how far a connection with SWE could take me. As an international organization, my involvement with SWE could extend into my engineering career.  I spoke with women who had been involved with SWE for over thirty years, and I was able to learn more about their career paths and goals.

Through these resources, I realized that my choice in a major didn’t matter as much as my choice in a career. As someone who loves technology, I thought the idea of working with a large technology company sounded awesome. I started looking at which engineering majors would lead me to those careers. Finally, days before the deadline in March, I settled on Computer Engineering… a far leap from my original Biomedical intentions!

Three years later, as I reflect on my journey at Purdue, I’m grateful that I found my way with SWE. As a sophomore, I joined the SWE executive board as the All-Member Meeting chair, and as a junior, I moved up to be Programs Director. Now, as the organization’s Treasurer, I manage the money that our executive board (of 44 individuals!) spends to make our events amazing and impact students like me! SWE has helped me grow so much as an engineer. Although I can’t quite believe it’s almost that time, I’m excited to graduate as a Computer Engineer and continue my involvement with SWE in my engineering career.

Want to know more about SWE? Join us at our Ice Cream Social this Sunday, August 30th, in the Earhart West Lobby from 6:30-8:30.

Interested in joining SWE? Come to one of our callouts, September 2nd and 3rd, in ME 1130 at 7:30p. We hope to see you there!

If you have any questions about SWE, feel free to email me at

Welcome, Boilermaker Engineers!  

Dean of Engineering Leah Jamieson

Whether you are just starting your Purdue Engineering adventure or returning to campus, the College of Engineering is excited to have you here!

I truly hope that your year is full of both learning and fun, and rich in intriguing new opportunities. This is an incredible time to be a Purdue Engineering student. You are the foundation of why we are here – your creativity, curiosity, and work ethic are critical in making Purdue Engineering the best it can be. We have hired over 100 faculty and 60 staff in the past three years to support your learning, expand offerings inside class and out, and explore emerging fields in engineering. The resources at Purdue uniquely develop your skills, attributes, and abilities to be successful in an ever-changing landscape. Our goal is to prepare you to take on the most important challenge of all ­­– improving people’s lives – because Purdue engineers have a positive impact on their community and the world.

It all starts with classes this semester, so I would like to share a few simple tips to help you make the most of your time on campus. First, connect: never underestimate the benefit of getting to know your professors, TAs, and other faculty and staff members. They can often teach you a great deal about a subject you need help with, be a critical part of your support system beyond any specific course, and be a valuable connection down the road. It is also important to work with your academic advisor, who can guide you through academic pursuits as well as resources across campus. Second, actively search for information. If you feel uncertain about a particular class, attend study sessions, visit your professor during office hours, and even do a little research on your own. The third tip is to pursue opportunities that will let you “experience engineering”: experiences like internships,

co-ops, research, EPICS, entrepreneurship activities, and study abroad. First-year students can start preparing for these programs as soon as you step on campus. These opportunities develop important skills, help provide your career with direction, and can be incredibly rewarding. Fourth and last, be involved on campus: give yourself a break, meet new people, and enjoy your time here at Purdue. One of my favorite activities is attending the shows and concerts brought to campus by Purdue Convocations. I encourage you to find your own favorite activity or organization, and to go out and explore all that Purdue and West Lafayette have to offer.

Welcome to Purdue and have a great semester!!

Leah Jamieson

The John A. Edwardson Dean of Engineering

International Student Graduates Q&A: Introduction

What made you decide to choose Purdue Engineering over other prestigious engineering universities?

Sajit Chitty – IE graduate:  Purdue was among the higher ranked universities from those options made available to me. Furthermore, I felt that my coming to the U.S was not only to obtain a higher education from a prestigious university, but to immerse myself in the American culture, way of life, and to build some great friendships along the way. Purdue seemed to have a history of keeping strong tradition yet staying ahead with innovation in teaching. The university was located in a beautiful campus town, and boasted a large yet diverse student population, all within the heart of the Midwest. In addition, there is no point in great educational opportunity without great job opportunity, and Purdue hosts some of the most successful career fairs in the country, which is boosted by its expansive alumni network.

Brandon Puccio – AAE Graduate: While I was in high school, I had a very good idea of what I wanted to major in and what I wanted to do after graduation. I wanted to be an aerospace engineer. This led me to research many top universities that had reputable Aerospace Engineering programs. This search lead me to Purdue. I was not familiar with Purdue before my searches. Many other schools like Michigan, MIT and Stanford came to mind. I started gaining interest in Purdue the more I read about the school. Their aerospace program looked interesting and their engineering department seemed like it offered a lot of resources and extracurricular activities. This led me to do a visit with the admissions and engineering offices. Once I visited the campus, I fell in love. The campus had a vibrant feel to it. The engineering campus was way more than I expected. The engineering tour gave me a lot of information about Purdue that I never knew. One of the facts that ultimately convinced me to attend Purdue was the options for career fairs and the many Co-Op opportunities that Purdue gives it students every year. Between the highly regarded career fairs, many Co-Op opportunities, renowned engineering program, and a beautiful campus, I knew Purdue was for me.

Siddharth Chhabra – IE Graduate: Purdue Engineering has given many current leaders in the industry a strong foundation to build on; it is a special campus and a great overall program. The cultural diversity of students was a big attraction. Also, my elder brother was already a Boilermaker in his senior year.

Xianzhe Zhou – ECE Graduate: The reputation of the university, the quality and the value of the education, and the corporal partnerships were all factors. However, it was an easy decision in my situation.

dfdaNiharika Chaubey – Chem. E Graduate: I came to Purdue as a Biology major, honestly I did not have a lot of knowledge when I came here and chose a university that ranked well, and had an affordable tuition. Purdue fit into this category. I eventually transferred to Biological Engineering and Biochemistry in my second semester, which is ranked number one in the U.S. It was an easy decision then to stay at Purdue, since I was part of the best program offered in the country. Having studied this for two years, I finally transferred again to Chemical Engineering, due to higher job prospects. Unlike a lot of students, I did CODO a lot more but eventually ended up doing what I liked.

Next Monday’s question: What resources did you use to succeed in your studies while at Purdue? For example: professor’s office hours, tutoring, or maybe others.

Office of Future Engineers Blog