#StudyAbroadBecause... you experience the world

Stasia Lopez's picture

Patrick Asinger is a University of Pittsburgh chemical engineering major with intended minors in polymer engineering, mathematics, and chemistry. He plays on the ultimate Frisbee team and conducts undergraduate research. Patrick enjoys learning about science and engineering, and wants to be a part of the upcoming technologies that will have an impact on the future. Patrick also enjoys traveling, trying new foods, and being active.

Patrick Asinger: #StudyAbroadBecause... you experience the world

What motivated your decision to go abroad? How/why did you choose where to go?

My family has always been interested in learning about and experiencing other cultures. From the time I was in elementary school through high school, my family hosted a total of nine high school exchange students – ranging from all across the globe. Living with teenagers who had left their home country to spend nine months in the United States developed a deep interest within me to do the same. Living abroad during my college years was something I knew I absolutely wanted to do. Because I wanted to enhance my undergraduate education with summer research experiences, I applied for the DAAD RISE program. I spent ten weeks conducting research at a University in Germany. I chose Germany because they have a reputation for being on the cutting edge of science and engineering. I studied the German language for two years, which made me feel more comfortable with jumping into this foreign culture rather than another.

Patrick Asinger: #StudyAbroadBecause... you experience the world

What was your experience like? What is your favorite memory? What were some challenges you observed?

Before my trip I truly never thought I would go around using the cliché “I couldn’t have asked for a better experience,” but this is exactly my perspective. I lived in a dual-unit household with a total of ten RISE interns – six girls on one side and four boys on the other. The city I was working in, Erlangen, had the most interns in this program than any other city. It was very common for a number of us to meet up after work and go to a beer garden or do some other activity. Planning weekend excursions was also easy since many of us became close friends. 
My favorite memory was when the office I worked in (School of Advanced Optical Technologies) went on a “beer hike” in a nearby region. We hiked from one beer garden to another, frequently through the woods. The cities we were visiting were nearing their 1,000 year anniversary. They were quite small and expressed the rich German culture that has persisted for so many years.
The main challenges I had were related to the language barrier. For instance, one of my assignments was to design a mounting system, in a 3D CAD program, for a special camera we would be using for experiments. The challenge here was that the only version of the program they could offer me was entirely in German. My German skills were only good enough for very basic conversations, so trying to understand the technical terms in this program was very challenging.

What skills did you develop from your experience? Do you feel changed from your experience abroad?

Using the weekends to travel to new locations required that I become an avid navigator of public transportation. From my experience, there was not a standardized way of displaying public transit information. Many times each city did it in a different way, so we would have to re-learn the system with each city we traveled to.

After this experience, I now feel more prepared for the unknown. I feel more inclined to commit to something that has uncertainties to it (not for the mere sake of uncertainty; I just do not let that become a deterring factor in my decision). There were countless scenarios of how my time abroad would unfold that raced through my mind prior to arriving. Studying abroad has made me more capable of overcoming the fears that accompany hypothetical scenarios that arise in one’s mind before embarking on an uncertain path.

Has your experience helped you get to where you are today?

It hasn’t even been a year since I left for my study abroad trip, but I feel like it has indeed helped me move forward with things. 

What advice would you share with other students who are thinking of going abroad?

For my experience in Germany, I realized halfway through my trip that it was usually significantly cheaper to take a bus somewhere rather than a train. A lot of money can be saved if all travel options are considered and then weighed: trains, buses, planes, or ride shares.

Patrick Asinger: #StudyAbroadBecause... you experience the world

How has international education impacted or influenced your cultural identity?

I think that I was fairly “culturally aware” before my experience since my family has hosted nine exchange students. While I learned what it was like to “live like a German,” I noticed the most when I returned from my trip. I was left always considering how the US fits into the international environment. There are many things that I am now more proud about because of my experience in another culture. I have a much greater interest in our own American culture and how it ties together into the global mesh of cultures. Additionally, I have become more aware of the obvious things Americans do differently than other countries.

Is there anything else you'd like to share with us?

I would like to thank DAAD for funding my experience on the RISE program. Many thanks also go to the School of Advanced Optical Technologies for their generosity and welcoming nature to myself and the other interns.


#StudyAbroadBecause...you experience the world



Stasia Lopez is the Global Education Editor for Wandering Educators and is also a Career Consultant at the University of Pittsburgh. She graduated with her Master’s degree in Educational Leadership in Higher Education and Student Affairs from Western Michigan University and earned her Bachelor of Science in Business Administration degree in Hospitality and Tourism Management from Robert Morris University. Stasia is passionate about international education, travel,  and loves working on a college campus. She’s lived in four different U.S. states (Florida, Michigan, South Carolina, and Pennsylvania) and also studied and lived abroad in Rome, Italy. Stasia lives in the Pittsburgh area with her husband, Fernando.

All photos courtesy and copyright Patrick Asinger