MISTI: Helping MIT Students Build a Better World

“I believe my care for the world has been heightened because I was exposed to such a diverse group of people who care so deeply about their research and their results,” says Juan Jaramillo ’16. While an undergraduate, through MIT International Science and Technology Initiatives (MISTI), he interned as a process engineer at IMDEA Energy, a sustainable energy company focused on improving the ways energy is created, stored and used. “It was an amazing opportunity to be doing meaningful work while also expanding my understanding of a different kind of life.”

Founded in 1983 by SHASS faculty and based in the SHASS Center for International Studies, MISTI is MIT’s pioneering experiential learning abroad program. The influential model gives students the tools to make a difference in the world by matching them with tailored, hands-on projects across the globe. An embodiment of MIT’s “mens et manus” learning culture, MISTI provides students real-life opportunities to take their education abroad and learn how they can help tackle the world’s challenges.

To prepare for their experiences around the world, MISTI students complete coursework in the language, history, and culture of their host country through SHASS. MISTI managers also prepare location-specific training sessions that are mandatory for every MISTI student. By coupling extensive cross-cultural knowledge with practical experience abroad, MISTI prepares MIT students to lead in addressing the world’s most pressing problems.

MISTI offers internship, teaching, and research programs in more than 25 countries, connecting nearly one thousand students a year with upwards of 450 international hosts and partners. Through MISTI’s MIT-Israel Program, for example, Matt Chun ’17 (pictured above) expanded his knowledge in the field of assistive technology while interning at Tikkum Olam Makers (TOM), a nonprofit organization of volunteer makers who work in developer teams to design and provide solutions to people with disabilities in areas of market failure. “TOM lines up exactly with my interests,” says Chun. “It’s a truly human-centric organization, and I’m happy to say it’s growing quickly.”

Through MIT-France, mechanical engineering majors Annie Dai ’18 and Carrington Motley ’16 developed wearable pollution sensors at Plume Labs. Architecture major Abigail Anderson ’18 went to South Africa and, through the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences School Enrichment Centre, worked with 134 math teachers from rural areas to teach new classroom strategies and basic computer skills. Physics major Abigail Drokhlyansky ’19 worked on a project to propose a new neutron detection method in the Laboratory of Nuclear Problems at the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in Dubna through MIT-Russia.

“While living in Spain, I learned a beautiful thing about science: People want you to succeed,” says Jaramillo (who, like many MISTI students, has participated in the program a number of times). “If they know you are trying to make an impact in this world, they will support you, no matter where you’re from.”


Matt Chun ’17, pictured above, explored his interest in assistive technology through MISTI’s MIT-Israel Program. Photo: Christophe Perez.

This story was originally published in December 2017.

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