API Intern Abroad Profile: Corby

We had the chance to interview, Corby Munsell, a Civil Engineering Major from Texas Tech University. Corby participated in the API Intern Abroad program with placement in Auckland, New Zealand.

1. How well did your international internship match your learning and career objectives?

My internship experience met all my learning and career objectives and far exceeded my expectations of what skills and insights I would return home with. The placement I received was with a small company that designed, fabricated, and installed several different cladding systems in Auckland, New Zealand. Having the chance to practice using programs like AutoCAD to design and detail my own contracts, with real deadlines, was an invaluable experience that taught me more than any number of semesters in CAD classes could have. My career objectives before I reached my internship site were to build my resume, further develop my soft skills, and learn to network effectively. I can say, without a doubt, that all my objectives were met fully during my internship and that I have benefitted from my time abroad continually since returning home in many ways.

2. What soft skills did you gain from participation in the program?

While abroad, the main soft skill I developed was communication. Communication is essential to being successful and effective in your placement, as well as being able to navigate the new foreign city and culture you are placed in. In my placement, I could practice my communication skills in a professional setting, when discussing the details of a project, or when simply hearing two engineers exchange jargon associated with my field of study. Also, integral to my experience in the program, were the exchanges between those I met abroad from all walks of life. Communicating with those who don’t speak your language, or have a different culture than your own, teaches you how to more effectively relate to others and how to convey an idea more than one way. I believe that both the professional and social settings I was in during my program benefitted my communication skills equally, and I noticed the difference in myself even more once I returned home.

3. How well did API prepare you for the program and support you while you were abroad?

API prepared me for things to expect and consider while I was abroad, as well as answer the questions I had about what my program would include and how to react to such a drastic change in lifestyle. I felt equipped with the tools API provided me to explore my new city and adapt effectively. The support I received abroad was more than I could ever have imagined. My API resident coordinator, Tiana, was absolutely fantastic in helping me adjust and bring me into the fold of Kiwi culture. She was someone I could always rely on if I needed anything or had any problems adjusting to my new setting, even something as simple as a suggestion for a local coffee shop. I developed a valued friendship with Tiana and her new fiancé, Pierre, during my time abroad and hope to stay connected with them despite the distance between us. To emphasize one last time, I felt completely ready to go abroad before ever stepping on a plane and received the most wonderful support from API once I was there.

4. What did you learn about your field of study from a global perspective?

While working as a draftsman in New Zealand, I developed competency with the metric system, something that isn’t emphasized as heavily here in the US. The metric system is used in most countries around the world. So, being comfortable with metric units is a marketable skill for an up and coming engineer. Second, the infrastructure in other parts of the world is sometimes more or less advanced, and, in some cases, more or less efficient. Being able to see foreign designs for critical infrastructure will help me to bring the strengths of foreign engineering design to incorporate into US designs, the best of both worlds. The current state of infrastructure in the US is subpar by the evaluation of the American Society of Civil Engineers, a D+ rating to be exact. If the US is to improve this grade within the next few administrations, then examining foreign infrastructure to find newer more efficient designs is critical.

5. What advice would you give to a student or recent graduate considering interning abroad?

Interning abroad is an opportunity that could change your life. I say it could change your life because I strongly believe that what you get out of an international experience is what you put into it. So, if you are considering an internship abroad be prepared to give it all you have. Not only do less than 1% of American college students study abroad, but even less of those do an internship abroad. It is an opportunity to set yourself apart from your peers and have the experience of a lifetime learning and living in a new culture.

6. Tell us about the highlight of your time abroad?

There are many highlights I could touch on from my time abroad. Skiing Mt. Ruapehu, where scenes from Mordor were filmed for Lord of the Rings, taking a road trip up the Coromandel Peninsula, or letting myself get lost in the hustle and bustle of downtown Auckland provide just a few glimpses into my abroad experience. I consider all of these events highlights, but the most memorable was a conversation. During a morning tea break, I discussed my plans for college and post-college life with a coworker and mentor, Ranesh. Ranesh told me, “if you don’t have a plan for yourself, you become part of someone else’s plan,” and that moment became the highlight of my time in New Zealand. That conversation galvanized me to finish my degree and embark on new adventures like nothing ever has before, and in the bigger picture of my abroad experience, it was something I will never forget.

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