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Temple Rome adds engineering program

Temple University Rome is offering a new program to civil and mechanical engineering students.

Salman Alotaibi will have travelled more than 10,000 miles across the world by the end of this year.

Alotaibi, an international student from Kuwait and sophomore mechanical engineering major, is one of the 11 engineering students who will study on Temple’s Rome campus during Spring 2017 as part of a new engineering program at the campus.

“When I found there is engineering course right [at Temple University Rome], I [thought] it was awesome because I can take classes that actually relate to my major,” Alotaibi said. 

The program will only be offered to sophomore mechanical and civil engineering students.

Matthew Short, a junior bioengineering major, said he is happy the university is starting a study abroad program specific to engineering — but it’s too late for him to enroll.

“Over the past few years, I’ve looked on Temple’s website for study abroad [opportunities],” Short said. “There haven’t really been any opportunities for bioengineering specifically. Even engineering is really rare, unless it’s through an external program, although those are few and far between unfortunately.”

Short said if there were more practical offerings for his major, he would have studied abroad.

Shawn Fagan, the director of the Center of Academic Advising and Student Affairs in the College of Engineering, said the program is only offered to sophomore civil and mechanical engineering majors during the spring semester, since the two majors have “almost identical” curricula during that time, Fagan said.

The program is also limited to specific engineering majors due to the Rome campus’ lack of laboratory space, Fagan said. He said they are exploring laboratory options at Italian institutions near Temple Rome to expand the program in the future.

“Traditionally with majors such as engineering, the majors are so sequential, and in a way so structured, that I think it’s always been difficult for students to find appropriate classes abroad so that they wouldn’t get behind in their degree progress,” said Hilary Link, the dean of Temple University Rome.

The program brings a new variety of classes to the campus, which usually focuses more on liberal arts than the sciences, Link said.

“[The program] really is a departure for us,” Link added. “It’s an enhancement for us. It’s giving different types of students a chance to experience Rome. I think that’s a lot of what the future will hold.”

Other universities like The College of New Jersey, University of Pennsylvania and Vanderbilt University have exchange programs set up so engineering students can go abroad. According to their websites, these programs require students to directly enroll in universities overseas and transfer their credits back to their home universities.

Temple’s program allows engineering students to study abroad during the regular school year without worrying about transferring credits from a foreign institution, Fagan said.

Fagan added that students will be able to apply their pre-existing financial aid and scholarships, since the program will be offered during the spring semester. He hopes this will make studying abroad more affordable for students.

“The engineering department reported to us that 80 to 90 percent of incoming students expressed interest in study abroad, but not many were able to do it,” said Katie Ryan, the Rome program manager for the Education Abroad and Overseas Campuses Office. “We’re really focused on this program [growing] at the moment.”

Fagan said in the future, he hopes to expand the program to include other engineering majors and offer internship opportunities. He has also spoken with the dean of Temple Japan about creating a program there.

Alotaibi is excited the program was able to launch sooner rather than later so he could experience another study abroad opportunity.

“From my experience in other countries, six weeks is not like living there five months or four months,” Alotaibi said. “There is a huge difference. If you spend more time there, you will be exploring more, gaining new culture, learning a new language and basically taking a class in things not in a textbook.”

Kimberly Burton can be reached at kimberly.burton@temple.edu.

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