It wasn’t long ago that Villanova University engineering students lived vicariously through friends in other disciplines who studied abroad. Course rigor and program requirements generally ruled out the possibility of engineering majors spending a semester overseas. In recent years, however, the College of Engineering has made adjustments to the curriculum to allow more of its students to pursue this transformative experience. In 2008, 10 percent of the College’s graduates had studied abroad; by 2014 that number had grown to 16 percent. Each venture offers unique experiences beyond what can be achieved by staying on campus at Villanova.
One student in particular, Nana Fares ’17 CE, had an incredible study abroad experience during the past school year. She studied for two semesters at the American University of Sharjah in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and remained in Dubai for an additional three months this summer for an internship program. “I was supposed to go there for only a semester, but I enjoyed it so much that in November I decided I wanted to stay longer,” she explains.
While the majority of civil engineering students who study abroad go to Ireland or Australia, finding her own program in Dubai was more appealing for Nana. “I wanted to go abroad, and I was born in Dubai and part of me wants to back there to work after I graduate, so I just wanted to give it a try to see if I really enjoyed living there,” she says. Part of her program included classes on Arabic language and heritage, in addition to two planned trips to Oman and Bahrain. By working with Dr. Andrea Welker, PE, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, and the University of Sharjah, Nana was able to take all the required classes she would have taken at Villanova during the year, which will allow her to graduate on time.
Nana’s time in UAE also opened up an opportunity to work as an intern for Arabtec Construction, L.L.C. in Dubai for the summer. Her duties included a variety of on-site work in addition to valuable experience in the operations and technological department.
The majority of Villanova engineers who study abroad love their experience—Nana is no different. “I would definitely recommend my program, and I would definitely recommend studying abroad in general,” she says. International study exposes students to new people and cultures and opens up numerous possibilities in the future.