Study abroad helped student envision a future career


Sophie Zhang at the Albert Dock in Liverpool, United Kingdom.

Study abroad offers Hajim School students a chance to experience cultures in different parts of the world, even as they complete classes that count toward their degrees.

Sophie Zhang accomplished all that and quite possibly even more during her Fall 2015 semester in Bristol, England.

She may have discovered her future career.

Thanks to the University of Bristol’s “awesome” career service center, Zhang ’17, an electrical and computer engineering major (minoring in biomedical engineering), was able to attend networking events and talk to recruiters from a host of major companies, many of which are not involved in engineering, such as Bank of America.

“Those on-campus professional recruiting events opened up a window for me to realize that I could utilize my technical and quantitative skills in many other professions,” she said.

For example, “using my problem-solving engineering skills to work with clients on site to improve their operational performance and reduce their costs would be very challenging and rewarding. Most of the companies also have global offices in the U.S., so I could apply for their internship programs this summer. I never thought that I would find my potential professional passion while abroad!” Sophie explained in a blog  she wrote about her experiences.

While at Bristol, she took five classes, three of which satisfied requirements for her major and one of which counts towards her cluster. As a result, “I didn't feel I was behind academically after I came back,” she said.

She immersed herself in British culture, living in a flat with six other British students. “I remember when I moved in the first day, my flat mates offered me tea and biscuits as soon as I walked into the kitchen,” she recounted. “They also taught me many British slangs and customs and invited me to go to pubs and welcome week events with them. I’ve had many fish and chips, enjoyed afternoon tea, learned Ceillidh dance and watched Doctor Who with my British friends. I might even be able to speak with a British accent when I return to the US!”

She learned to do things for herself. “Since I am living in a self-catered residential hall, I have to cook for myself three times a day,” she described in her blog.  “I relied heavily on my meal plan when I was in Rochester and my parents always cooked for me when I was home, so buying groceries every week while under a certain budget, preparing three meals a day, and washing dishes have become part of my daily routine here at Bristol. I now really appreciate my mother cooking every night while working during the day when I lived at home, and I feel more responsible and mature for taking care of myself.”

And she “definitely grew more confident about myself.” Especially after one of her most memorable experiences: A solo trip to Budapest, Hungary. “I was quite terrified before my departure because I'd never been to a country, alone, where I cannot speak the language! But I ended up making a lot of friends at the hostel that I was staying in and celebrated New Years Eve by watching fireworks near the Danube River on the Pest side of the city. I feel I grew much stronger and independent after this solo trip and I am not afraid of talking to strangers from now on. It was probably one of the most adventurous trips I've ever taken in my life.”