March 22, 2005
After ECE senior Kyle Anderson studied abroad for a year in Switzerland, learning French opened doors for him to apply for a co-op in Quebec. Find out how he is honing his ECE skills while learning a new language and culture and making friends from around the world.
I'm from Everett, Washington, which is about 30 miles north of Seattle.
I spent a year abroad last year in Lausanne, Switzerland where I was studying at the EPFL (École Polytéchnique Fédérale de Lausanne). My classes were in French, despite only having had one semester of French before my arrival. I had a very difficult time at the beginning, but after four or five months I began to feel really comfortable in French and was able to succeed in my courses.
It was this study abroad opportunity that opened the door for me to participate in the co-op position that I found. I work in a research group at the Université de Sherbrooke in Sherbrooke, Quebec in Canada. Right now, I'm only two months into the co-op, but it has been pretty good. I have gotten a lot of programming practice. The work I do is in English, but 99% of my correspondence with colleagues and my bosses is in French.
It has helped me a lot in determining what aspects of ECE I like and would like to continue working on. My co-op has also given me a very practical perspective of what goes on in the workplace.
For anyone interested in continuing work in ECE, I think that internships should be mandatory. They allow you to see if you really like the work on a daily basis, and also get a feel of what different aspects of the work you like. This can be very valuable knowledge when you are selecting your courses, too.
My co-op is delaying my graduation one year to May 2006; this way I will be able to apply to grad schools this Fall without the pressure of having to do it while taking courses.
I really enjoyed learning a new language and culture. I now have friends from all over the world and I really hope to see some of them again when I travel in the future. It was also interesting for me to see how different the teaching methods in Switzerland are from Carnegie Mellon. The school in Switzerland was as tough as CMU, but the work was distributed in a very different fashion.
I would recommend studying abroad to anyone that wants to learn a new language or experience a new culture; there is no more efficient and enjoyable way than spending a lot of time abroad. It was also a nice change of pace.
In Switzerland the best parts were all the friends I made around the world and learning French. In Sherbrooke, the people I work with are great and it is a very encouraging environment.
I knew that I wanted to do a co-op near Montreal, so I found a Canadian job search site, sent emails with my resume attached, made phone calls, and crossed my fingers.
For Switzerland, I just had to fill out a form that said I wanted to study abroad and get a letter of recommendation. CMU is allowed to send up to 12 students each year to the university in Lausanne, but when I went there were only 5 of us, so there was no competition to go.
For my co-op, I wanted to continue my French and I have some friends from Quebec that I met in Switzerland, and I thought it would also be cool to be able to spend more time with them here.
For my year abroad, I had a choice between Mexico and Switzerland (the only two places where the ECE Dept. will accept credit) and I did not speak French or Spanish. I really wanted to do a year abroad, and I had been to Europe once before. I also thought that I may have been able to use my German while in Switzerland, but I wound up becoming much better in French than in German.
I live in a small two-person apartment which is about a 10-minute walk to the university, with someone whom I did not know beforehand. So far I have traveled to Quebec City and Montreal. I have friends in both cities that I met in Switzerland.
In Switzerland I was in a student residence with other Swiss and international students. Throughout the year I traveled all over Switzerland, made a 10-day trip to Italy, spent Christmas and New Year's in Germany, went to Paris twice, spent a week in Ireland, and nearly 2 weeks in Sweden.
No credit for my co-op, but I am paid. In Switzerland, the credit transferred as pass/fail, so it did not affect my QPA.
I am in HKN [the Electrical and Computer Engineering Honor Society] in the ECE department and I was on the golf team freshman year. I love playing golf and bowling (I was captain of both school teams in high school). I also enjoy swing dancing and playing the trombone.
If you're really interested in finding something, concentrate all your efforts on it and you will find something. They're out there waiting for you to go find them!
As far as the future is concerned, I'll be back at CMU to finish my last semester in the Spring of 2006 and I'll enroll in a Master's program in the Fall of 2006. Once I have my Master's, I'll decide whether to search for a job or continue my studies toward a Ph.D.
Kyle in Zermatt, Switzerland with the Matterhorn in the background.
Kyle and a friend stand in front of the city of Florence.
Kyle with two friends at Montmerency Falls, outside of Quebec City.
Kyle in the vineyards next to Lausanne, overlooking Lake Geneva.