'Take time to plan'

Places Paterne visited in Madrid
Paterne Iradukunda, at right, in Madrid and at some of the places he visited there with fellow students.

Language barriers and miscommunication nearly wreaked havoc with Paterne Iradukunda’s Spring ’22 semester abroad in Madrid.

For example, Iradukunda ‘23, an electrical and computer engineering major, and classmate Jojo Walugembe, thought they had lined up a class on machine learning. Actually, they had selected a different course because of difficulties in translating from Spanish.

By the time they arrived, the machine learning class was filled.

In addition, an internship Iradukunda took as part of the IES Madrid program included a professional development course he didn’t know about until he arrived. It covered topics he had already learned at Rochester, but it was too late to waive the class and take a different one.

The IES program included a beginner’s class in Spanish. Nonetheless, trying to learn the language from scratch in a city where very few people speak English proved daunting. Language was a “big barrier” to connecting with Madrid’s residents.

And yet, despite all these problems, Iradukunda says, he’s glad he went to Spain.

“Overall, it was definitely worthwhile,” he says. At the University of Carlos Madrid III, he was able to complete two equivalent courses (in computer structure and electronic waves) that he needed to keep on track to complete his ECE major here. He learned that working in Spain after graduation would probably not the best experience because “I would have to be very fluent in Spanish.”

Best of all, he was able to do a lot of traveling with other international students studying in Madrid, including several from the University of Rochester.

“I was able to see different countries, different people, and different places. It was really fun to be able to do that with my friends.” 

Grecian isles, Italian cities

Those travels included exploring the islands of Greece, followed by a tour of Rome, Florence, and Venice in Italy.

“It was amazing to see the differences in those cities. Each of them had something different to offer,” Iradukunda says. Rome was very much a city of tourists compared to Florence, “a more artistic town with so many people doing drawings and paintings.

“Venice was a hugely memorable experience,” he adds. “The city is basically on top of water. We took the gondolas all around town. Venice was amazing.”

Iradukunda says he “definitely” recommends study abroad for other students—“as long as they take enough time to plan for it, and make sure they don’t get surprised.

“Just be aware of the challenges that can come up such as language barriers and finances. It takes careful planning to have a successful experience.”

A job lined up at Oracle

Iradukunda, who is from Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, is also pursuing a minor in business. “I have a strong interest in the intersection of business and engineering,” he says.

In addition to study abroad, Iradukunda has been a teaching assistant, an analyst for the student government, and a web developer for University IT.

In addition to his internship at TSI in Madrid, he has interned twice at Oracle and at an MIT sponsored startup called Insightiv in Rwanda where he tested and developed efficient algorithms for an AI empowered radiology diagnostics platform to counter the lack of radiologists in developing countries.

“From my internships, I realized that I enjoy on projects and applying the knowledge that I’ve gained from school,” he says.

One of his favorite activities at the University has been participating in the Pan African Student Association as part of their a capella group. “It’s a very friendly environment, and you get to sing and enjoy music,” he says.

 Iradukunda has been offered a job at Oracle after he graduates. He will also continue working on his startup, piyata tech.

Below: Iradukunda in Venice, 'a hugely memorable experience,' where he rode gondolas through the city.

Paterne in Venice