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Purdue School of Engineering and Technology

Purdue School of Engineering and Technology

Students Travel to China for Study Abroad Program and Work on Joint Software Project

May 10, 2018

Thirteen students from four IUPUI schools had a once-in-a-lifetime adventure when they traveled to Beijing and Changsha, China through a study abroad program. What made the trip more unique was that they have had the opportunity to collaborate with students from Central South University (CSU) on a software project.

Rob Elliott, a lecturer for computer information technology (CIT), teaches China: Global IT Citizenship, a study abroad course that examines the role of an information technology employee in a globalized workplace as well as the skills and knowledge a professional must have while working with colleagues from a variety of countries.

"CSU's School of Software has a curriculum that is very similar to IUPUI's CIT program, so there are quite a few opportunities for our students to work with the students there," he said.

He explained that they kicked off a joint mobile application design project during their visit to CSU. This allowed them to practice their skills working with diverse teams and learn more about the IT needs and expectations of Chinese users. The faculty at both universities are hopeful that it can be replicated in other courses -- even without the study abroad component.

"Once we returned to the U.S., the idea is that our students will become the system analysts for a software project, and they will “outsource” the development of the app to the students at CSU, explained Elliott. "We want our students to understand the importance of specifications and clear communication – to see if what they receive matches up with their expectations."

While in Changsha, students visited two Chinese firms, Sangfor and Sany, that have developed and depend upon information technology solutions to manage their businesses across the globe. The class also spent time learning about Chinese history and culture, including trips to the Forbidden City, Summer Palace, Temple of Heaven and the Great Wall of China.

For Elliott, study abroad is unlike any other teaching experience because the long trips allow faculty and students to interact on a personal level.  "It’s been transformative for me as a teacher as I’ve really gotten to work with the students in a completely new mindset," he said. "And the impact on the students is indescribable. These are experiences that they will quite literally remember for the rest of their lives."

Joe Somarribba, a senior studying computer information technology, jumped at the chance to study abroad. " I thought that studying abroad would be an amazing way to experience something that is out of my comfort zone; learn about the different methods that are taken there as opposed to how we do here; and I believed this would be a great opportunity to represent IUPUI."

He was excited to learn from the students from CSU, particularly when it came to the different kind of problem-solving methodologies they use and skills that he could share with his peers at IUPUI. Somarribba also believes his experience will greatly affect the likelihood of working for an organization that collaborates internationally.

"As technology advances, many companies and organizations are expanding via globalization, and I believe that will lead to many more opportunities for my career personally," he said.

As for advice to other students interested in the study abroad program, Somarribba said, "Live curiously! Expand your viewpoint of the world and educate yourself of the boundless opportunities that exist outside of our country. Nothing extraordinary comes from 'playing it safe!'”