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MIT Better World

By Liz Karagianis

In addition to learning biology, math, or engineering from a book, having the chance to actually develop a fuel-efficient vehicle in Cambridge, assist tuberculosis patients in India, or help guard against a tsunami in Chile makes the experience much more memorable.

When students complement their class work with actual worldwide experiences, they may travel, giving them a chance to build a network of colleagues across the globe. It also teaches them a remarkable amount of self-confidence, and it’s an invaluable way to get a job later on.

After Reid Allen, an MIT junior, spent a year designing racecars at BMW Motorsport in Munich, he says: “I’m already getting job offers.”

Rodrigo Zeledon, who studies aeronautics and astronautics, adds: “When you’re doing problem sets in class you’re applying formulas to limited situations. When you deal with real-world issues, you realize there’s no such thing as a formula. There’s no one way to solve all problems.”

Senior Rany Woo, who traveled to five cities in India and later developed CellCentives, a plan to create incentives for TB patients there to take their medication, says that before the trip she thought of the patients,”You have the medication, why don’t you just take it?”

Now, after meeting them, she knows why they don’t — because they forget, because they develop uncomfortable side effects, or because after a while they feel better and stop taking the pills.

“When you’re in a country actually working with the people, you have a much better understanding of where they’re coming from,” she says.

The students on these pages all say that class work is important but when real-world experience is added, learning is amplified. It’s like learning in stereo.

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