May 11, 2017

SEC Engineering Student Discusses His Semester Abroad in Italy

SEC engineering exchange students pose for a picture during the welcome party at the Politecnico di Torino.
SEC engineering exchange students pose for a picture during the welcome party at the Politecnico di Torino.

By: Bryant Welbourne
SECU (Twitter: @TheSECU)

As part of an agreement between Southeastern Conference universities and the Politecnico di Torino (PdT), SEC engineering students are currently studying abroad at the Italian university. The exchange program, in its seventh year, provides a way for Italian students to study at conference universities in the fall and SEC students to study in Italy the following spring.

One of this year’s SEC exchange students is Andrew McArthur, a sophomore at the University of Arkansas who is studying mechanical engineering. McArthur talked with SECU, the conference’s academic initiative, about his experience.

SECU: What sparked your interest in taking part in the SEC engineering exchange program?

Andrew McArthur: “The University of Arkansas does a great job of exposing students to opportunities abroad. I heard about the program and all its benefits for those in my major and I was hooked. Combine that with the fact that it’s in an amazing city and country, there was no way I was going to pass on this opportunity.”

SECU: What were your expectations going into this experience?

Andrew McArthur: “I knew the PdT would be difficult because it’s a prestigious institution and everyone around me would be in a similar field. I expected the adjustment would be hard, but that I wouldn’t have too many issues getting acclimated to the difficulty and style of my classes. My expectations have been met and I’m succeeding, I believe, in my classes, but it has been no easy task.”

SECU: What are some educational goals you would like to accomplish during your time at the PdT?

Andrew McArthur: “Being here and doing well is an impressive goal in itself. The lectures are very different than the U.S. and it’s noticeably more theoretic. Besides that, I’ve been trying to accomplish more outside of class. Aside from talking about school, I’ve made a huge effort to engage with classmates about their work experience, research and more. I want to have a general idea of what the international stage is like for mechanical engineering majors.”

SECU: What are some of the challenges you’ve faced so far?

Andrew McArthur: “One of the biggest challenges is the change in class structure. Instead of weekly homework and two or three tests per semester, I have only one test for each class at the end of the semester. This shifts the pressure to the students because we must pace our study habits without the help of benchmarks like midterm exams. As a sophomore, I’ve only been in school for three semesters and I’m still getting to know how classes work in the U.S. This change is certainly a challenge, but I’m staying on top of all my lectures and I always attend class. When you start missing classes here, it’s almost impossible to catch back up.”

SECU: When this experience is over and you return to the U.S., what do you hope to have accomplished during your time in Italy?

Andrew McArthur: “In general, I hope to become a more well-rounded person. Applied to education, I hope to become a student, who when tossed into a daunting class, can adapt and overcome the challenges of that class. I want to be able to use my knowledge of the Italian course structure to help in my upper-level classes that might have fewer required assignments. I would also like to say that I achieved success through hard work and flexibility at one of Europe’s engineering hubs. Down the road, I would like to study abroad again to further these accomplishments.”

In addition to the engineering exchange, SECU was able to secure an Institute for Study Abroad Foundation grant to provide scholarships for SEC students to study at Queen’s University in Belfast, Ireland. And, SECU oversees a cooperative agreement that provides students from SEC universities access to programs offered at other SEC universities, along with facilitating a two-year education abroad commitment by Dr Pepper, a longtime SEC corporate sponsor.