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Summer study abroad vs. engineering internship

  1. Oct 21, 2012 #1
    Hey guys,

    I'm having difficulty deciding what I want to do next summer. I'm currently a junior, so this is the last opportunity I have to do an engineering internship. Last summer I did an REU. I know I want to go into the renewable energy field, but I don't know if I need to go to grad school. I think I want to just because the idea of working in a chemical plant (I'm a ChemE) kind of depresses me.

    Anyway, I have several companies who want me to do an internship with them this summer. I'm not particularly interested in any of them as they are mainly manufacturing. I have been browsing other options and think studying abroad or working at a national park would be awesome. I am just wondering if doing one of these things would hinder my chances at getting a job if I decide to not go the grad school route. I have lots of research experience but no industry experience. I think it could help my grad school application since I can relate my intended research to real-world experiences.

    I really want to do the study abroad or cool park job because I love nature and new experiences, and this is probably one of the last opportunities until I retire that I have this opportunity. One plus of the industry job is the $$$, but I'm not very materialistic, so the lack of it (especially if the opportunity cost is living in an amazing area) is not especially hindering to me.
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 21, 2012 #2


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    Industry experience is valuable, particularly if one interns at a company involved in renewable energy systems. Don't knock manufacturing; manufacturing establishes the initial conditions (Design and Implementation of the Design) for any engineered system, and that usually has a profound effect on how the system performs in its intended environment (O&M = Operations & Maintenance).

    There's something called 'vacation', usually two or three weeks a year. As a professional, one should expect to compensated for one's efforts. One benefit of having sufficient money/funds is to realize opportunity to do cool things, like traveling abroad or spending a vacation at a National Park.
  4. Oct 21, 2012 #3
    Thanks for the response. I'm not against manufacturing; I realize society (and I) rely on it, and I think it would be cool to see a product go through all stages of development through production. However, this isn't where my passion lies. I don't look at an assemble line and think "oh my god that's amazing" like I do when I look in nature. If I do end up working in industry, I see myself as more of a R&D person, always looking to improve the future. That said, I've talked to a lot of people in industry and they all recommend starting in manufacturing regardless of where you want to end up.

    Right now, I'm 70% sure I want to go to grad school. Naturally, I'm wondering what the best thing for me to do this summer is...get industry experience (and $$$), or do a job totally unrelated to industry but appealing to me. If possible, I'd like to do another REU, but I know that they don't encourage people to do two during their undergraduate careers. I know people working normal jobs get vacations, but I want a job I love so much I don't need a vacation. I don't want to work to get vacations; I want to work for the betterment of the world (and my own enjoyment).
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