Quick trip, lifelong journey
By Ashley R. Fazio
Adapting the undergraduate engineering curriculum to allow for study abroad can be challenging. Doing so without adding a semester can be a tall order for even the most hardworking Watson School student.
For those left with the international bug, an attractive alternative is a cohort trip, such as the one to India now offered to students of the Watson School over winter break through a collaboration with the School of Management.
Paul Watrobski, then a junior studying computer engineering, was one of three Watson School students who capitalized on the opportunity. “India is rising in the world of engineering both as a market and a competitor,” he says. “We need to know their business practices in order to cater to them and compete.”
It was not Watrobski’s first time abroad, but it was his first trip to India. During the 10 days, he took advantage of every outing and absorbed every insight he could — receiving kudos from his fellow travelers for being the group’s most adventuresome.
The experiences were diverse: He visited the Taj Mahal and the Lotus Temple; rode elephants and camels; toured Fortis Hospital and a manufacturing plant; met with employees of PwC and a small startup, Oxigen Services; and tasted a beefless Big Mac at McDonald’s.
Oxigen is creating a phone-based banking system for use in areas without automated teller machines. The company’s fundamental criterion was that the final product had to be affordable for the poorer populations. “The head of Oxigen said to make the device with these features for this amount of money,” Watrobski explains. “The goal then was to use the minimum amount of resources necessary to make it do what it was supposed to do, and not add on a bunch of special features.”
Watrobski returned with a few fresh business principles and a better sense of self. He also became a vegetarian. “It is definitely more difficult to eat vegetarian in the United States than in India. But adopting some of the Indian flavors into my diet when making food has made it easier.”