They'll Study in Europe and Get Three Degrees Each

These Three To Get Three Degrees Each

Three NJIT students will spend a year studying abroad – half the year at an Italian university and half at a Spanish university – and get a bachelor's degree from each. 

That means when the students return home and graduate from NJIT, they’ll each have three bachelor’s degrees. 

“It’s an amazing opportunity to get two degree from foreign universities while also getting to live in Europe,” says Edwin Bolanos, one of the three students in the exchange program. “The more cultures you understand,” added Bolanos, the more valuable you'll be on the job market.”

The exchange program is funded by a $416,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Education. The European Union gave a grant of the same amount in euros to NJIT’s partner universities: the University of Parma, Italy, and the University of Extremadura in Badajoz, Spain. The four-year program aims to foster an international understanding among American and European students and to prepare them for global careers. Each student gets $12,000 to pay European expenses.  The students are either permanent residents of the U.S. or citizens. NJIT will get its first group of European students sometime in 2012, says Layek Malek, a professor of industrial engineering who directs the program. The exchange of students will continue for four years.

The program will emphasize industrial engineering, supply chain management and operations management, Malek says. And since Parma is the bread-basket of Italy, the students will study the region’s food industry and perhaps do internships with Italian food companies. The students will get language training, too, earning a total of 32 credits. They'll take classes at NJIT in engineering management and industrial engineering to complete their degrees.

From Peru to NJIT to Europe

Bolanos, a senior studying Industrial Engineering, left Peru for America when he was 18.  He speaks Spanish but not Italian, which he is eager to learn. When he arrived in America he enrolled at Bergen Community College. He mastered English and excelled in his classes, while working full-time as a waiter.  He then transferred to NJIT, where he has a 3.7 GPA. 

“If I’m not working and taking classes and keeping busy I don’t feel right,” says Bolanos, who also helps his parents financially.  “I came to America and had to learn English and U.S. culture and college life here. I want to do the same thing in Spain and Italy.”

An Independent Woman of the World

Andrea Rodriguez left Colombia when she was 18 to come to America.  She too first attended Bergen Community College and then transferred to NJIT to study Industrial Engineering.  It’s uncommon for a young woman in Colombia to travel to America by herself, says Rodriguez, but her parents had faith in her. She acclimated herself quickly in America and excelled at NJIT.  She now she wants to do the same in Europe.  The three will first study in Spain, she says, and spend the second part of the year in Parma. She spent a previous summer studying Italian in Venice, so she is eager to live again in Italy and improve her Italian.  She also wants live and study in Europe and learn about Parma’s famous food industry, which transports food around the world.  

“I love to travel and live in different countries and see what their cultures are like,” she says.  “I think this exchange experience will impress employers when I later interview for jobs.”

Expanding Horizons and Robots

Brian Garcia, a senior studying industrial engineering, was born in America but his parents emigrated here from El Salvador.  His parents came to America hoping and dreaming that their children would attend American schools and do well. Garcia didn’t disappoint them.  He is a top student at NJIT and belongs to the Educational Opportunity Program.  He too works to support himself.  Academically, he’s interested in robotics and automation, which he looks forward to studying abroad. The three of them will rent an apartment in Spain, and then do the same in Italy, he says. At the end of the program, they intend to stay on in Europe a bit longer and travel to other countries: France, Greece, Switzerland, Austria and Portugal are just a few of the countries in their sights.  

“This will be a great adventure for us,” Garcia says, his eyes brightening at the thought of the onset of the trip. “We’ll expand our horizons, learn a lot and get two degrees from European universities. That will help us when we compete for jobs in a global marketplace.”

(By Robert Florida)