Penn Global Week Exchange Paths and Possibilities
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January 28, 2021
For international students from across the globe who call Penn home for a semester or two, there are a wealth of possibilities and paths to choose between. Whether through joining a sports team, working with a Philadelphia-based startup, traveling to other east coast cities, gaining hands-on clinical experience, forming friendships with fellow Penn students, or all of the above and more, no one exchange experience at Penn is the same.
For Samuel Oyewusi of the University of St. Andrews in St. Andrews, Scotland and Yuto Suzuki of Hitotsubashi University in Tokyo, Japan, who are both interested in entrepreneurship, studying at Penn provided a unique opportunity to gain professional experience and exposure. In January 2020, Samuel joined a team of fellow Penn students to participate in the Wharton Ideathon, a 24-hour hackathon-style event in which students worked with industry-leading startups, tech companies, entrepreneurs, and thought leaders to ideate and pitch solutions to presenting brands’ challenges. Samuel also attended a city-wide innovation festival in Philadelphia called B.PHL during which he met students and professionals from across the city. For Yuto, who had previously worked for several startups in Japan, studying at Penn allowed him to further his studies within a hub of innovation and entrepreneurship while simultaneously improving his English skills.
Louise Couceiro of King’s College, London gained much fulfillment from joining the Penn’s Women’s Rugby team. “I saw them at an orientation event, they seemed nice, and I knew I wanted to join a team sport. Everyone thought I would be amazing because I’m from the UK," she recalled. “I loved the whole experience. Being surrounded by so many different people from different backgrounds with different opinions who weren’t afraid to voice those opinions was refreshing to me.”
Aleksandar Dragicevic of Bocconi University in Milan, Italy and Greg Hext of King’s College, London both enjoyed the hands-on coursework they experienced at Penn and say it stills benefits them in their careers today. "At Penn, you hit the floor and worked with patients. At first, this was a bit of a shock, and a lot more autonomy was given to students in the States. Nurses expected you to know what you’re doing. It helped you learn. You either sink or swim,” Greg said. “It gave me a lot of confidence and direction. I’m now in the position to use the things I learned at Penn, direct where things are going in this organization, advocate for advanced skills, and look at alternative methods. All the experiences I had years ago come into play.”
Aleksandar, who studied in Wharton, still owns and refers to books from his Penn coursework. “The education at Penn had a different approach, much more practical and hands-on than theoretical, which has helped me quite a bit,” he said. “Students in teams were tasked with reaching out to businesses, creating projects, and getting involved with something concrete and tangible. It struck me – this is not only hands-on, but this is real.”
For Matéo Moreau of Sciences Po Lyon in Lyon, France, it was the friendships he formed at Penn that he cherishes above all. Thanks, in part, to the guidance of a former Penn student who had studied abroad at Sciences Po Lyon, Matéo’s time Penn was largely free of surprise or challenge. His favorite memory from the year is his birthday night, when two Penn students, knowing he was feeling homesick, bought a bottle of French champagne to toast just as he would typically do at home. Then, they all went to dinner together at a nice restaurant in center city. “This day felt so good and so refreshing; both of these friends had already lived abroad and I knew they knew how I was feeling, and it was such a nice moment to feel that connected with them. I think that is my favorite memory; a memory about friendship and French cliché,” he said.
Offering advice to future exchange students at Penn, Sky Treasure-Jeffreys of the University of Warwick in Coventry, England writes, “Work hard and get as much out of your classes as possible. It’s mind-blowing to be taught by professors who have written the most updated, cutting-edge research. One of them even showed us innovative technology right in class the other day. Talk to professors one-on-one and have conversations with them and you can learn more about them and about their incredible careers. As cliché as it sounds, take all opportunities.”
Written by Erin Feeney, Penn Abroad Graduate Assistant
Penn Global Week is an annual event for the university to showcase the depth and breadth of cultural activity and global programming available across campus. This feature is part of a series dedicated to highlighting the global experiences and work of the students and faculty who make Penn global, and enrich Penn’s global engagement efforts.