Take Advantage of International Experiences (BEST Courses)

Author: Sarah Roberts

This past winter break I had the opportunity to represent Western at the CFES Congress conference in Halifax. Congress consisted of a week of engaging sessions on professional development, leadership and learning from schools around Canada about their own engineering societies. The theme for this year was “Global Engineer.” I attended different sessions on how to earn an engineering degree enriched with international prospects such as studying abroad, taking an international course, internship programs and exchange programs. In this blog post, I will briefly explain what I learned about the different opportunities available to Western students and how students can find the best international trip for them. I attended a session called, “How to travel as an engineer”, which had a small presentation on how to find one of these opportunities and was followed by a panel from students who had all experienced different international experiences.

One program I learned about that is available to all Western engineering students are the BEST (Board of European Students of Technology) courses. BEST offers courses for students to participate in courses across Europe in a range of intriguing topics. The courses are 1-2 weeks in duration and the price range from 0€ - 50€ in countries across Europe. This fee will provide housing, food and all academic resources for the duration of the course, requiring the student to pay for flights to and from the location. These courses present an amazing opportunity for students to meet individuals from all around the world, explore a new country, and learn new skills. One BEST course transfers to one half course at Western and they are offered all year. All that is required to apply is a motivational letter explaining interest in the specific topic. Courses that some of the panelists participated in include: biomedical devices in Germany, the fishing industry in Iceland, and learning about startups in Slovakia. The courses do not run like a traditional course and are immersed with industry involvement providing a unique educational experience. One panelist explained an exciting opportunity where he acquired an internship at Siemens after completing a BEST course where they had exposure and interaction with the industry in the biomedical devices sector.

In the panel I learned about the three golden rules of being a global engineer:

  1. Breaking even is a good goal
    - You usually will not make a profit when studying abroad
  2. Be as flexible as you can with timing
    - An opportunity might come up that you did not think possible be open to it
  3. Sometimes quantity of applications is the best tactic
    - Apply everywhere! Use all the connections you can!

If you are interested in learning more about best courses here is a link to the current course being offered and they will be updated for Summer soon. https://www.best.eu.org/courses/list.jsp

If you are interested in the presentation from Congress about “How to be a Global Engineer” it can be found here: https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1Q-5XZyJ-dsuRMt00ByMHVMGXPVMf5X3TAY9CDB0poK0/edit#slide=id.g2b5453734d_0_84