When Joe, 15, from Jordan, and Leen 17, from Lebanon, signed up to participate in Engineering World Health’s (EWH) Virtual Engineering Innovation and Cultural (VEIC) Exchange program, they never expected to find that they had so much in common with their peers over 5,000 miles away in the United States. This virtual exchange program brought together students from Jordan, Lebanon, and the U.S. for a course focused on low-resource design and engineering for healthcare in an international setting. For four weeks over the summer, Joe and Leen worked on a team with three American students collaborating on biomedical engineering projects.
In addition to working on engineering projects that they found interesting, such as designing renewable energy sources to provide electricity for medical equipment in low-resource settings, Joe and Leen agree that collaborating with an international team of like-minded students was, in itself, an amazing experience. “Getting to work with many people from different countries, social backgrounds, and cultures was quite interesting. It was certainly a wonderful experience,” said Leen. “Our team was great! Everyone was very respectful, considerate, and kind.”
EWH staff couldn’t agree more. Joe and Leen’s group facilitator, Camyrn, a biomedical engineering graduate student at the University of Florida, loved working with their team and witnessing the connections made between students from different parts of the world. “One day, Joe asked me to stay after our scheduled meeting so that he could share a personal project he’s been working on. I was happily surprised to see all of the students at the meeting sticking around. We were very impressed with the engineering projects he was working on, and he really appreciated our feedback. It was a very heart-warming moment and I was proud to be a part of it!” In addition to guiding her students through biomedical engineering coursework, Camyrn enjoyed talking with them about their future plans, and how their hard work in high school will be very rewarding as they look forward to going to university.
This virtual exchange experience helped Joe and Leen develop problem-solving and communication skills that they’re sure will be useful in future endeavors. “I’m still not sure what I want to do, but the EWH program gave me guidance and an example of what I could be doing in the future – and I definitely learned a lot of new skills and knowledge from the program that I know one day will be helpful,” said Joe about his plans following the program. Leen plans to pursue chemical engineering and possibly study international law someday. According to her, working with people from different cultures as part of this program helped prepare her to handle real life situations in which she will have to work with individuals with different social and cultural backgrounds. “Despite the differences between us, we all worked together to give the best results possible. Sharing different opinions and points of view was always the best part of working on our team, since we had a great deal of respect for one another and accepted each other’s ideas,” she said.
Both Joe and Leen would recommend that other students participate in EWH’s VEIC Exchange in the future, and seek out other opportunities for cross-cultural exchange. According to Joe, EWH’s virtual exchange program was not only educational, but fun and exciting as well. “I would definitely recommend the program to students at my school or others, since it was very beneficial and it gives you a better understanding of engineering as a field,” said Leen.
Over the summer, nearly 200 students had similar experiences to Joe and Leen’s, working remotely on international teams and learning about concepts for biomedical design, collaboration, ethics, and entrepreneurship as part of Engineering World Health’s VEIC Exchange program. In addition to learning new engineering concepts, this virtual exchange experience used technology to connect young people across continents and cultures, enabling hundreds of students to collaborate and learn with their peers abroad without having to leave their communities.
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