From Barcelona to Dublin: Q & A with Tyler Yang
By Lisa Van Vuuren
After successfully completing his internship in Barcelona in 2019, Tyler Yang was bitten by the travel bug and decided to continue his adventures in Dublin. Majoring in Biomedical Engineering at Drexel University, Tyler wanted to gain further experience abroad before graduating in 2021. We asked him a few questions on his internship experience in Barcelona last year, and how it compares to his internship in Dublin this year.
What made you decide to do an engineering internship abroad?
I had prior experience working in the United States and figured I would use some time to travel and see how the industry works overseas.
Why did you choose Barcelona as a destination?
I had some experience in speaking Spanish back in high school and college, which I hoped to use and practice. I was also interested in its convenient location in Europe to travel.
What made you return for a second internship abroad? And why did you choose Dublin as your next destination?
I had already planned to go abroad to Dublin before leaving for Barcelona due to the timing of my college program requiring 6 months of placement. However, as I left Barcelona, I knew that I wanted to spend much more time in Europe. I think the major reasons Dublin appealed to me was that some of my friends I met in Barcelona are living there, the natural landmarks and the wonderful culture of Ireland.
What was it like living and working abroad? What could you not have learned in books that you have learned by living and working abroad?
I had never lived abroad, let alone lived by myself. For me, living in Barcelona, using English minimally, and finding friends was no easy feat; but was one of the most valuable learning experiences in my entire life. I feel much more confident to meet new people and have expanded my worldly knowledge through meeting new friends abroad and sharing our experiences. My time in Dublin was no different; I’ve met so many students and professors who have welcomed me kindly and introduced me to new things daily. These last 6 months have been an incredible period of self-growth and reflection on how little I knew of the world outside the United States.
Has your internship given you insight into the field of engineering as a career?
Absolutely. With one year to graduating with my bachelor’s, the question of what to do when I graduate has been on my mind for a while. Working with both Barcelona University, and University College Dublin has really reminded me how many incredible projects are available in modern academia. I hope to study abroad in Europe for graduate school, and now BU and UCD are fresh on my mind for great universities with dear friends in the area.
What challenges did you face? Did challenges differ in each destination?
In Barcelona, English is available to many major areas, but I committed myself to practicing Spanish and Catalan so that when I visited more rural areas for backpacking and hiking, I would be able to speak the essentials. This was not an easy task on top of working a 9-5 job, but I made progress and was encouraged by my friends to practice. I’m very glad I did so. In Dublin, language was not as much a problem and I have very few things to complain about. Outside of remembering to pack an umbrella for those gloomy Dublin winters, I found that work at the University was very initiative based. This also occurred in Barcelona University; it’s very possible to coast and do the minimal work, but showing initiative and jumping onto interesting projects can be much more rewarding.
What was your best highlight Barcelona? And what are you enjoying about Dublin?
While it was outside of Barcelona, my friend and I rented a car and drove up to Valle de Boi on the recommendation of a co-worker. It was an incredibly charming snowy valley in the middle of some majestic mountains in the north of Spain. The town probably consisted of 10 people due to us visiting in the offseason and they exclusively spoke Catalan. I’m glad it was this way as it really contributed to a very unique and authentic Catalan experience in a beautifully quiet village with wonderful hikes just an hour away. For me, the personality and hospitality of the Irish people is the best part of Ireland. I feel welcome in my part of town where people know my name, my favorite drinks and how to make me laugh.
What have you learned about yourself?
Living alone has really allowed me to take part in things I wouldn’t always have the time to do. Sharing interests with friends in Barcelona, I started writing and playing music based on our experiences. I’ve found time to catch up with hobbies like this in my downtime when I need to regain my energy. I also learned how easy and fun traveling is – I managed to sweep across Europe on weekend trips and am looking to continue my adventures in my free time. Finally, I learned how much of the world I hadn’t been experiencing growing up in the States. Frankly, my living experiences in both Barcelona and Dublin were much richer in experiences, opportunities to travel, and greatly reduced living expenses. This has made me strongly reconsider where I intend on settling down when I graduate. This experience has completely changed me and the way I see the world. I have Connect-123 to thank for empowering me in doing so, as well as providing support whenever things got difficult.
What would you say to anyone considering an internship abroad?
Take the jump! I can’t tell you how terrified I was the week before I left for Barcelona, I was even considering canceling the whole trip because I thought I wasn’t going to fit in or something. My advice is that you’re obviously not going to fit in instantly – that’s the point of living in the country. Put yourself out there, make some mistakes, laugh about it, and learn from it. I’ve gained so many irreplaceable friends from admitting my ignorance and willingness to learn more. It could seem scary and just not enjoyable at the start, but as you warm up to it, the time will just fly by. Looking back at it, I can’t believe 6 months have already passed. I’m already planning a visit back as soon as I find some free time.
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