Andrew Pfarr

IPE Peer Advisor

Major: Chemical Engineering

Minor: International Minor for Engineers

International Experience: DIS: Copenhagen, Denmark - Winter 2018

Why did you choose to study abroad when/where you did?

I had always wanted to complement my technical engineering degree with some sort of business experience, so DIS's program in Entrepreneurship & Innovation was the perfect fit for me. Another aspect of the program at DIS that immediately caught my attention was the focus on "out-of-the-classroom" learning. Each core course offers a week-long study tour with your class to 1-2 cities in Europe, and every course at DIS has two field studies during the semester to relevant locations in Copenhagen!

What was one of the most memorable experiences from your time abroad?

My favorite experience from my time abroad was the week-long study tour that my Entrepreneurship & Innovation class took to Berlin, Germany. Throughout the week, not only did we have the opportunity to visit tons of attractions in the city, but we also got to meet with several startups, incubators, and venture capital firms to get a feel for the entrepreneurial scene in Germany.

What was one of the biggest surprises about the location, culture or other aspects of your program?

My biggest surprise in Denmark - and most of Europe I'll add - was not only how well people spoke English, but how respectful they were in switching from their first language to speak English with me. I came into my semester abroad apprehensive to approach the Danes, but they were completely comfortable speaking English with me and never acted as if I was rude for initiating a conversation in English.

How do the skills and experience you gained abroad set you apart as a professional engineer?

While studying in Copenhagen, I also had the opportunity through DIS to work with a local Danish startup part-time. Not only did I gain firsthand experience working for a tech startup, but I was also able to develop communications skills by working with people from different countries and cultures than my own. These inter-cultural experiences are absolutely something I can bring to enhance my degree back home.

What advice would you like to give to a student interested in an international experience?

Don't be afraid to try something completely new and unseen to you. Some of the best experiences I had while abroad were things that weren't planned, but happened on a whim. Join a club at your new university that you had always wanted to do at Michigan but didn't have the time, take a weekend trip to a city you have never heard of (if it is safe to of course), go with a group of new friends to check out a cool spot in the city. You won't regret it.

How did your time abroad impact your graduation timeline?

I only took one engineering course while I was abroad, and my graduation time is still the same as it was before. While abroad, I mostly took classes that fulfilled my international minor and intellectual breadth courses. Don't assume a semester abroad will push back your graduation, it's entirely possible that you can fit it in!