BSMP students are working with Illinois State University’s Horticulture Center this Summer.
Field of Study: Biomedical Sciences
U.S. Host Institution: Western Kentucky University
What was your favorite moment or event in Spring 2015?
During the spring 2015 semester, so many good things happened. First of all, over Spring break, my friends and I took an adventurous trip to Georgia (that was a crazy event because we almost didn’t arrive there, and almost couldn’t return – traveling by bus in the US is hard). But everything that occurred gave us funny stories we will remember all our lives. And through the semester, many meetings with international students came about, and made me more involved in different cultures. I also attended a Bob Dylan Concert, and it was amazing, incredible and unbelievable. (However, I think Americans do not know how to enjoy a concert. In my opinion, to be quiet is not the best way to have fun, but I know that this is their culture and I respect it.) And furthermore, I finished the semester with good grades, even though I had some doubts about it.
All these things made my Spring 2015 great, but I am completely sure about my favorite moment. Not one of these compared to the Annual Sports Banquet at Western Kentucky University (WKU).
Throughout my entire life I was engaged in sports, which have allowed me to grow mentally and physically. Since I was a child, my father encouraged me to do sports like soccer and volleyball. In elementary and high school, I distributed my time between study and sports. I made so many different friends, including peers, professors, coaches, and other players. They contributed to the construction of my personality, especially in a group or team context. While I was with them, I had to follow rules and I had to respect different kinds of people – an essential skill for living in society. Sports also helped me physically (in bone, muscle and endurance development), and in forming a healthy diet. At college in Brazil I was involved mainly in soccer, and I did not want to miss this activity when I came to USA. Thus, I looked for a way to actively keep up my growth in sport activities.
For the sake of personal happiness, I looked into the women soccer club at WKU; I became a member there and got involved. But it wasn’t as easy as I thought it might be. To find the group itself was not difficult (because in the U.S., sports are big deal and the students are always encouraged to participate), but staying in this group was difficult. I spent 2 hours every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday in training and practices. I was not fluent in English at the beginning, so the communication during the practices and games was the biggest hurdle. In some moments, I thought about giving it up. But this attitude would be opposed to what I have learned in all my sports life. I stayed with it, and through the days and months, and I have developed the capacity to communicate, and I approached everyone in the team. It has been a cycle, because the more I communicated, the more I approached people, and consequently the more I communicated – and the cycle never stops. In addition to the practices, we had some trips to play at other Universities, and those were yet another platform for me to get more involved in the sport and to develop my English. My involvement became bigger with each passing day.
Then, at the end of spring, all students involved in sports clubs were invited to the Annual Sports Banquet, including me. This event marked the end of the sports clubs activities for the semester. The food was delicious and everybody had a big special free meal. The most anticipated time in the night was when the awards for best players were released. To my surprise, I was nominated the “Athlete of the Year.” I received my award with beautiful speech. They announced in public my achievements and spoke about my development in the team since the difficult beginning. That moment, I knew that I had done my best. I knew that I had fully received what these people and this experience could offer me. They gave me a family in USA, with which I could have the best feelings. That moment confirmed that the sport made me a better person. It does not matter where you are; you can be who you are, and you can achieve the things that make you feel well.
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Rafael recently completed his BSMP grant at the University of California, Davis, where he studied Automation and Control Engineering. During the summer of 2014, he interned at MAHLE in Morristown, Tennessee.
How did you find your AT?
I had been thinking about AT even before coming to the U.S. My goal was to work in a company and I experienced a lot of challenges before securing an internship.
My first approach to contacting companies was through my college’s website. UC Davis has a system that connects students and companies by posting employment opportunities, which allowed me to apply to summer internship positions at several companies. I did my own research on Google, by looking for companies I was interested in working with and that offered programs that fit my interests. I also talked with my professors and friends from Brazil and asked them if they could recommend companies where I could intern.
I ended up contacting MAHLE, which is known for being one of the largest automotive suppliers in the world. There is actually a MAHLE plant two streets away from my house in Brazil. After I interviewed, they gave me the good news.
Rafael at the MAHLE office in Morristown, Tennessee
What projects were you working on at MAHLE?
I worked in the Sales and Application Engineering department where I had the opportunity to engage in several different activities. I created cost breakdowns and gathered information for the company’s system. I also worked with the opportunity managers on their projects.
What are some of the most important things you learned while engaging in your AT?
With this opportunity, I have learned so much. I was able to experience the day-to-day routine of a company as well as work with a team where everyone contributes to a larger project. I also learned about the automotive market and about the parts in which MAHLE is involved specifically. As my duties required me to be in contact with several people through emails and over the telephone, I also improved my communication skills.
Of all the things I learned, the most important thing was how to solve problems in the face of real challenges. The things I learned by working in the industry went beyond what I learned in college; this is what really attracted me to MAHLE.
Can you compare what you thought about the Automation and Control Engineering industry before working with MAHLE? Was there anything unexpected about the industry?
I knew what to expect at MAHLE, considering the large volume they produce around the world. I expected a highly automated, organized plant, and MAHLE did not disappoint. The robots and the sensors used in the projects are able to provide parts with defect rates very close to zero. The quality system also oversees the production to guarantee the best performance possible.
Something that really caught my attention was the company’s focus on always improving processes and working to provide the best product on the market.
Rafael with one of his colleagues, Charlie Sikes
How have you used what you learned at MAHLE since you have been back at school and how do you plan to use it during your career?
Working at MAHLE made me realize that I like the Sales and Application area. I not only plan to use what I learned at MAHLE in my career, but I want to continue working in this specific area. Because of MAHLE, I was motivated to come back to school and direct my studies to this specific area in order to prepare for my career. What I learned during my AT is already being applied in the classes I am taking this period.
What was the coolest thing you did during your AT at MAHLE?
Solving challenges under time restrictions while working with the team. It was very rewarding to be able to see someone else benefiting from my contributions as well as seeing my role make a difference in the final result of the project.
What advice can you give to future BSMP Automation and Control Engineering students for their AT search?
Start searching for AT even before coming to the U.S. Finding a summer internship is something that is not easy, even for American students. The earlier you start, the more chances you have to find an opportunity that you like.
Also, do not restrict yourself to a specific area. If the exchange program allows you to go to another region, do not limit yourself in the search. In my case, I went from California to Tennessee, and I learned a lot from living in these two different areas.
Rafael and Wendy Harbin at Rafael’s going away party. Rafael noted Wendy as someone who helped him a lot while he was in Tennessee.
Some of the feedback we received from your supervisor and coworkers said that when you were on conference calls with people from other offices, you sounded like an account manager rather than an intern. How were you able to do your job so well and be so confident? What can other students do to have such a successful internship as you did?
There are two main reasons why I performed so well. The first and most important is because the team supported me. They taught me what I needed to know and after that they trusted me and gave me the freedom to do it on my own. I would not have been able to accomplish what I did without them.
The second reason is that I never considered myself an intern, I loved what I did and I wanted to contribute everything I could to the company. Because of this, I worked to exceed the expectations and to get the best results in every situation.
To connect with Rafael on LinkedIn, go here.
Check out the below infographic to learn more about BSMP student internships in the summer of 2014. To the BSMP students who engaged in AT, thanks for all of your hard work!