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Summer Engineering in Germany
December 14, 2005

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

The list of international opportunities for Calvin College engineering students just got a little longer.

This month the college's Faculty Senate approved a six-week summer course in Germany, to begin in the summer of 2006, that combines a regular Calvin engineering course with a new German course at the University of Bremen.

Calvin engineering professor Ned Nielsen says the new course is vital in today's global economy.

"I think we do a decent job of exposing our students to the international nature of engineering," he says, "but we can always do better. This new course is a great opportunity for our students. It's really exciting."

Students will spend six weeks in Germany with Nielsen (from mid-July to the end of August). There they will take seven credit hours (four for the engineering course and three for the German language and culture course at Bremen).

"It's a pretty full load," Nielsen says with some understatement.

Yet the course work will be balanced with cultural opportunities. Most weekends the group plans to leave Bremen on Friday for a variety of destinations in the country of Germany (Wittenberg, Berlin, Heidelberg, Koln), returning to their homebase on Sunday ready to get back in the classroom on Monday morning.

Sightseeing, Nielsen says, is in some ways a luxury, but also a necessity.

"These will be fun trips," he says, "but they'll also be great opportunities for our students to soak up more German culture and to really begin to understand the country."

Such an understanding, says Nielsen, is vital for students who want to stay in West Michigan after graduation.

"The Right Place has done a great job connecting this region with Germany," he says. "There are over a dozen companies here with German ownership and many other companies that are American-owned and have a German presence. For our students to have these experiences in Germany is really significant."

Nielsen notes that in the world of engineering currently the two language skills most in demand are German and Japanese. Next on the list, he says, are French and Chinese, closely followed by Spanish.

The new course gets added to an arsenal of international engineering experiences at Calvin.

Nielsen notes that currently Calvin engineering students can graduate with an international specialty designation beside their degree (Calvin offers a bachelor's degree in engineering with concentrations in mechanical, civil, chemical and electrical and computer).

Students get this designation by participating in an international interim class (Calvin's three-week term in January where students take just one class), doing an international internship (usually in the summer) and demonstrating a mastery of the language of their internship country.

Calvin graduates between 60 and 70 engineering students annually with 85% of the engineering students graduating in four years!