Johns Hopkins Gazette: October 2, 1995

Engineering Students Get Chance To Study, Work Abroad

Leslie Rice
Homewood News and Information

     Ruth Rupreht still gets a few blank looks when she tells
people she's from Slovenia. 

     "I'll explain that it is part of the former Yugoslavia and
they look alarmed and say 'Serbia?!' so I quickly say 'No, not
Serbia,'" said Rupreht, a University of Ljubljana graduate
engineering student. "So then I explain that Slovenia is south of
Austria and east of Italy, and that we are not at war with
anyone. Then they seem to feel better."

     It's noon on Thursday, and Rupreht carries a taco salad to a
sunny spot on the lawn outside Levering Hall. She joins a group
of 15 or so students already talking and laughing and digging
into fries and sandwiches. The group is mostly a mixture of
students from Austria and Slovenia and Hopkins students who are 
participating in an engineering exchange internship program
between the Whiting School of Engineering and universities from
Austria and Slovenia.

     This summer, 25 Hopkins engineering undergraduate and
graduate students spent six weeks in Austria or Slovenia, working
in an overseas internship program for engineering students.

     When the Hopkins students returned to Homewood to begin the
fall semester, 23 engineering students from the Technical
University of Graz and the University of Ljubljana joined them to
begin a six-week internship in which they will audit classes and
work on research projects supervised by Hopkins mentors.

     "We're pretty certain this is the only study-abroad program
in the U.S. that takes engineering students and puts them to work
in their field of research," said Jack Fisher, professor of
geography and environmental engineering and director of the
3-year-old program. "Usually in the U.S., engineering students
have to conform to an arts and sciences program if they want to
study overseas, and very few can afford to lose engineering
credits to do that."

     For both the Americans and Europeans, the program allows the
students to view their fields from an international perspective
and to try different approaches to research.

     But for American students, one of the biggest appeals of the
exchange program was the opportunity to live and work in another
culture. During the summer, students from Graz and Slovenia who
had been chosen to come to Hopkins this fall made sure their
American counterparts traveled on weekends to become immersed in
European culture.

     "Many Hopkins students have told me they consider the
internship the apex of the college experience," Fisher said.

     Rupreht said she has noticed more similarities than
differences in research styles at laboratories at Hopkins and
their home countries.

     "In fact, people here seem very surprised when I tell them
the labs in Slovenia are technically up-to-date," said Rupreht,
who is researching methods to prolong cell lives. "There are some
nice things about the labs here, though. If you get an idea and
want to try something, you can order a chemical here and it is
there the next day. In Slovenia, it can take at least a week. By
then you have almost forgotten what your idea was."

     Austrian native Josef Preishuber has been avid about
computers since he was a child. A graduate engineering student in
Graz, he is also a computer hardware designer for an Austrian
company. During his six weeks at Hopkins, Preishuber hopes to
design an integrated circuit computer chip. 

     He'd also like to improve his English. To survive in the
computer industry in Europe, he said, one has to be fluent in the

     "At least 50 percent of the research books in Graz are in
English," he explained. "I don't want to read translations.

     "I met some of the Hopkins students when they came to Graz
this summer, and I realized that I could talk to them with no
problem in English about technical things, but I had a great deal
of trouble with everyday phrases. Just in the few weeks I've been
here though, I've become very fluent and now I have no problem
getting around at all. "

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