Laura McWethy in Bremen, Germany
Laura McWethy, Calvin senior who spent a summer working in Bremen, Germany, for Matthäi Bauunternehmen GmbH, an international construction company.

Expanding Experiences Through Overseas Internships

Laura McWethy
"Engineering is becoming more and more a globalized field, and it is important to have this understanding."

~ Laura McWethy, Calvin senior

In over eight years of placing Calvin students in internships in Europe, engineering professor Ned Nielsen has noticed an interesting thing: engineering internships often lead to language study. A significant number of the 31 students he has placed in Switzerland, Germany, Puerto Rico and the Netherlands have studied the language of their host country upon their return to the United States.

"That is unheard of for engineering majors," Nielsen says. "Their whole outlook on life changes." The cultural enrichment that comes from an overseas internship is essential for engineers, Nielsen believes. Now, as never before, "in engineering, you have to design for the whole world," he says. And the résumés of Calvin students who complete overseas intern-ships at places such as:

  • Siemens Dematic in Offenbach, Germany;
  • Rockwell Automation in Aarau, Switzerland;
  • and Pharmacia in Arecibo, Puerto Rico,

often rise to the top of the pile at those companies — and at engineering firms closer to home. "I had an e-mail two weeks ago from a company with an opening for a mechanical engineer who spoke German and who had international experience. How many people fit those criteria?" Nielsen asks. "I knew three."

Kelly Clark and Xing Taotao
Kelly Clark and Xing Taotao, professor of philosophy at Peking University

Connecting with Chinese Universities through Christian Philosophy

"The first time I went to go teach a course in China, I'd come in to the class, and the students would ask, ‘What are you going to teach about today?'" says Kelly James Clark, professor of philosophy at Calvin. "I'd say, ‘The rationality of religious belief.' And they'd all laugh, as if that's a contradiction in terms — that's the way they were taught to believe. By the end of the week, I'd get a standing ovation."

"For me, I feel like China is the most foreign country I've ever been to, and I think our students feel that way, too, but putting a face on China has helped it seem less scary. And it's not just so much about having their fears dispelled; it's that they are actively getting interested in going there"

~ Kelly Clark, Calvin professor of philosophy

For the past seven years, Clark has organized faculty and student exchange programs — now supported by Calvin's Asian studies program — between Calvin and Xiamen and Peking universities.

Clark has also explored this cross-cultural dialogue through scholarship. During the past year, books by Clark and former Calvin professor Alvin Plantinga were the first two works on Christian philosophy to be translated into Chinese and published in China.

"Here's the way to describe the impact of a book like this," says Clark. "I published Return to Reason in the U.S. in 1991, and until 2004 it sold 7,000 copies. It sold that much in six months in China, so there's tremendous interest in this kind of work."

« Back | Next »