Going On An Exchange Can Help You Become A Better Engineer

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My name is Hussein Hashi and I’m a fourth year chemical engineering co-op student at Ryerson University.

This summer I had the opportunity to complete an internship as a Research Assistant at the University of Stuttgart in Stuttgart, Germany.  This internship at Institute for Chemical Process Engineering (ICVT) was taken through the Ontario/Baden-Wurttemberg Summer Research Program.

“I hoped that this experience would assist me to become a better engineer by learning how to communicate across many different cultures.”
Hussein Hashi, fourth year chemical engineering student, Ryerson University

Why I wanted to go on an exchange

I was interested in this exchange program for many different reasons.  Personally, I wanted to develop an awareness and understanding of a different culture.

Academically, I want to pursue a research-based master’s program in the future and thought that this would be a good way to find out if I was interested in research.

Professionally, I hoped that this experience would assist me to become a better engineer by learning how to communicate across many different cultures.

The work I did on my exchange

My first task at the ICVT was to design a MATLAB model of an adsorption evaporation cycle that simulated a solar cooling air conditioner based on my adviser’s model. This system was modelled after a Methanol-Activated Carbon system and included various stages including an evaporator, adsorption, desorption, and condensation stages.

My second task was running experiments with the Wicke-Kallenbach diffusion cell to measure the diffusion coefficients of Nitrogen and Helium gas. I compared these results with a MATLAB simulation of the same process by plotting both data sets on the same graph and analyzing the results, and tried different approaches to make both data sets match.

Through this internship I have gained some practical experience in running experiments and also became much more adept at programming in MATLAB. My advisers at the institute were always willing to help and support me whenever I had issues and felt it was an excellent learning environment and was given all the tools necessary to complete these tasks.

How I adjusted to life in Germany

The University of Stuttgart has two campuses, one downtown and the other in the suburb of Vaihingen. They have many dormitories and apartment flats in Vaihingen campus and around the city, which are similar to campus dormitories in Ontario and are reasonably priced. My experience living on campus was great because of my roommates who were an awesome group of people to be around and hailed from across the globe.

There are a few cultural differences that I had to get used to upon my arrival to Stuttgart. The biggest adjustment that I had to make was the language barrier, which affected me when doing simple things like shopping for groceries, but this issue got easier to deal with as time went on.

Another cultural difference was the opening and closing times of several stores and government buildings which makes enrolling in the university and the city quite the adventure. The university international office has a pretty amazing welcome buddy program that pairs you with a student that helps with this process and makes it much easier.

On weekends, I was able to travel to many different cities in Germany which include Heidelberg, Konstanz, Munich, Berlin, and Dusseldorf. I was also able to travel to Vienna, Prague, and Europa Park. My top three most memorable experiences during my travels are going to the season-opening game for Bayern Munich (the most successful football club in Germany) at Allianz Arena in Munich, visiting the Hofburg, Schrönbrunn and Belvedere palaces in Vienna, and visiting the Reichstag in Berlin.

Overall, with this experience abroad I have accomplished all the goals that I have set for myself, made lifelong friends, and has given me memories I will never forget.

My tips for students who want to go on an exchange

  • Have a compelling statement of interest letter outlining why you are interested in the program, and what you can offer to a potential university researcher
  • Preference is given to students who already have a host professor in Baden-Württemberg, so it is best to try to secure a professor through your department (but don’t let it deter you from applying to the program)
  • There is a similar summer research program organized by Ontario Universities International in Ontario/Rhône-Alpes, France that may be of interest

 

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