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 language. "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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