For many students, an international internship is the culminating experience of their college career. Not only do they learn about other cultures and languages, but they also further their academic ambitions and discover how their skills fit into a global context.
Val Hernley’s global odyssey started in 2014 with the College of Engineering’s Rising Sophomore Abroad Program in Europe. That fall, the engineering science and mechanics major approached Michelin at the college’s on-campus career fair about an internship in France. By the next year, she had completed two rotations of a co-op with Michelin in the U.S. She was determined, though, to work in France.
“That was my dream — to somehow combine my love of French language and culture with my love of engineering,” Hernley said.
At the end of her third rotation, in 2016, the tire manufacturer called to ask if she was still interested in going to France. Hernley jumped at the offer, accepting an opportunity to work on a traction design problem at the company’s headquarters in Clermont-Ferrand, about 260 miles south of Paris.
The internship came with challenging project tasks and refreshing cultural differences. Highlights included speeding around a wet test track with a professional driver and gathering on Friday mornings for team breakfasts of fresh croissants.
The process of adapting to an independent life in a major French industrial city and working full time was not always easy, though. But Hernley said she learned things from her international internship that maybe she wouldn’t have learned otherwise — about intercultural differences in industrial research and her own career goals.
“It’s one of the reasons I want to go to grad school now — to pursue solutions to open-ended problems in aerospace engineering,” she said.
— ROB EMMETT