International Engineering Program in Germany Celebrates First Graduates
An innovative dual degree program to introduce engineering students to global problem-solving is celebrating its first two graduates.
Steven Sonntag graduated in December 2018 and Connor Heo graduated in May 2019. Both pursued mechanical engineering and German degrees and were members of the Honors College.
The University of Arkansas International Engineering Program gives students an opportunity to complete two degrees in five years — a B.S. in engineering and a B.A. in German.
Students spend one semester taking regular university engineering courses in German at the Technical University of Darmstadt, an institution recommended by Albert Einstein and located in a major German research and technology hub, and one semester working in a paid internship with a German company.
Sonntag worked for BMW, and Heo worked for ZF Friedrichshafen in Commercial Vehicle Technology.
For Sonntag, it was a chance to set himself apart.
“Not many engineers graduate with multiple degrees in different fields of study, and most students don’t have the opportunity to work in a foreign country,” he said. “It’s not very often that you’re given an opportunity to go abroad for a whole year while still contributing to your academic and professional goals.”
He said being exposed to German university classes also showed him a new way to approach problem-solving.
“German university engineering classes are pretty different than in the U.S.,” Sonntag said. “The professors seem to focus much more on theory, while the exams are more about application and calculation. You are responsible for connecting the dots between the two and learning how to apply the theory to problems, through homework.
It was also a big change for me in the sense of self-reliance.”
Heo said the experience was meaningful academically and personally.
“Academically and professionally, the IEP has been a great help and a huge confidence booster,” he said. “Not only has it given me the chance to prove myself, it’s shown me that going out of my comfort zone and doing something totally new is oftentimes worth it.”
Heo and Sonntag are both pursuing graduate degrees in mechanical engineering at the University of Arkansas.