GradSWE International Student Toolkit

Hi everyone! And welcome to all the international students that have made the move to the US this past week to start graduate school in Fall 2017 🙂 . This post is designed to help you gain some knowledge on crucial aspects of moving to America. If you have any questions or would like to receive advice on any of these topics, feel free to email me at Good luck!

    • Proximity to campus is one of the most important factors while picking your new home, whether it be by walk or by public transport
    • Make use of realtors – many of them provide services that are free for students and they know great places near campus
    • Pick roommates wisely – nothing is more disrupting to your education than a hostile environment in your new home
    • If you need your personal space, choose to share an apartment but have your own room and bathroom
    • Choose an apartment that has a good amount of natural lighting – studying under artificial light can cause more strain to your eyes
    • Universities are huge and can be overwhelming to navigate, so make sure you mark important campus spots on Google Maps – library, places to eat, computer center, your classroom buildings, etc.
    • Research your university resources and make use of them – the international office, career center, free resume reviews, etc.
    • Reach out to your subject librarian, learn how to order books for inter library loans and how to access library resources using a remote login from home for papers, journals, etc.
    • Follow your university on Facebook and participate in events, both social and educational and start networking
    • Find your preferred on-campus study spots and save them for when you need some time to study alone
    • Go to every orientation you can despite how overwhelming and monotonous they may seem – they add value to your international learning experience
    • Get involved with graduate student organizations like SWE – even ones that are only within your university
    • Use on-campus facilities such as your gym, yoga sessions, sports centers, etc.
    • Take care of your mental health – research your campus for free counseling resources
    • Do not hesitate to reach out for help if you’re stressed or overwhelmed
    • Open a bank account with your university’s recommended bank
    • International students don’t typically have a credit history in the US, so find a credit union that will give you a credit card even with no credit score
    • If you plan on staying in the US long term, it is important to start building your credit history as early as possible
    • Do not fall for fraudulent calls targeting international students claiming to be the IRS asking for your social security number



3rd Global Grand Challenges Summit

Do you want to connect with international colleagues and tackle the world’s biggest engineering challenges? The National Academy of Engineering (NAE) is hosting a 2-day summit in Washington DC on the Grand Challenges in Engineering. Check it out!

Registration is now open for the 3rd Global Grand Challenges Summit, to be held July 18-20, 2017 in Washington, DC. Sponsored by the US National Academy of Engineering (NAE), the UK Royal Academy of Engineering (RAE), and the Chinese Academy of Engineering (CAE), the Summit will focus on the four themes of the NAE Grand Challenges for Engineering: Sustainability, Health, Security, and Joy of Living, as well as Education and Public Engagement related to the Grand Challenges.

We are expecting about 800 participants, evenly split between students and professionals. Free lodging is available for student attendees, and a travel allowance is available for students from US academic institutions (max 5 per institution). Based on past experience, US registration may close fairly early in order to preserve slots for overseas partners, so we urge you to register at your earliest convenience. For more information and to register please visit .

SWE Grad International: Liberia Edition

Greetings from Liberia!

Today’s blog post is about the international efforts of SWE and SWE members. Did you know that SWE has sixteen international affiliates? SWE’s international presence is growing every day. Here is a snapshot of where it stands.

SWE international by the numbers:
– 16 SWE international affiliates representing 10 countries
– 2 sister societies (in Japan and Korea)
– 2 annual international conferences (WeEurope and WeIndia)
– 8 SWE international champions

– 33% or 66% membership discounts based on country

– Free “Friend of SWE” membership for students outside of the United States.

As grad students, we have a unique perspective on SWE as a global society. Many of us regularly interact with peers who are from many different countries. As academics, we may go to conferences all around the world and collaborate with diverse people on research projects. As professionals, we may work on engineering teams with global remote employees. In either case, SWE is there for you.

As for me, SWE has broadened my view of the world. By being involved in SWE, I have been able to travel to Liberia in West Africa three times. In fact, I am here now!

I am in Liberia working with Africa’s future first SWE student affiliate – L-SWE. L-SWE started in 2013 the help of two graduate SWE members from the University of Michigan. The SWE at UM members introduced the idea of a global network of women engineers to the Liberian students and encouraged them to start their own student group. Three years later, L-SWE has over 40 members from three Liberian universities.

Last year, with the support of the SWE Professional Development Grant, 9 members of SWE at UM facilitated a two-week residential leadership camp for 30 female Liberian engineering students in Kakata, Liberia. The camp, L-SWE SUCCESS, covered academic, professional, and leadership development activities as well as engineering projects and student organization skills. It was a smashing SUCCESS!

Now, I am back in Liberia with a new team ready to facilitate a second camp. It started yesterday, Monday, 15 August 2016. You can learn more about last year’s activities and this year’s camp by following our social media.


Twitter: @GradSWEatUM
Instagram: @GradSWEatUM

Now, this is just my personal experience. SWE graduate student members are engaging with the global engineering community in many different ways.

How have you interacted with SWE globally? Please share in the comments below or email me at to be featured in a future blog post.

Until next time,
Elizabeth Dreyer
Grad Member Coordinator FY17

First Ever International Day of Women and Girls in Engineering


Today marks the first International Day of Women and Girls in Science!  Check out an article on the celebration here

“According to a study conducted in 14 countries, the probability for female students of graduating with a Bachelor’s, Master’s or Doctor’s degree in science-related field are 18%, 8% and 2% respectively, while the percentages of male students are 37%, 18% and 6%. In light of this, the UN announced last year that the first ever International Day of Women and Girls in Science would take place on 11 February 2016, as an opportunity to celebrate women in the field, encourage others to become engaged with science and highlight issues women are facing.”



Importance of taking a break

Winter break is now upon us (or quickly approaching for schools like mine, U of Illinois). How will you spend it? For graduate students, semester/quarter breaks are often not breaks at all. Many of us use this time to get as much research done as possible – getting ahead before the next semester starts, or catching up from things that you wanted to get done last semester (the latter is probably more likely). After a hectic semester, the break can provide a time free of interruptions by students, meetings, administrative tasks, etc,… just hours of your own research time (or, as I like to call it, “me-search”). Even though this may sound appealing for productivity, it’s important to not get too buried in your work and actually take a break! Several articles discuss why taking time off work is actually good for you, and can even boost your productivity!

The work culture in the US is certainly different than other places around the world. Our French colleagues, for example earn about 37 vacation days a year and use all but two of them. Americans, conversely, earn about 18 on average and take only 14. Even in academia, grad students and post-docs in France take 6-8 weeks of vacation per year… and they actually take it! This lifestyle seems so foreign to me. But, wouldn’t it be great to actually take a vacation without feelings of guilt that you should be working?

So, I encourage you to take a page from the European’s book and give yourself a break this holiday season. I will be giving myself 2 weeks of work free vacation starting Saturday. I must say, knowing that I have a break coming is giving me the extra drive to finish this last week of the semester strong. I’m confident that my productivity will be improved when I come back from vacation too. I’ll be sure to keep you posted! What are your winter plans?

Have you had an international research experience?


In an effort to globalize SWE grad, we are beginning to reach out to graduate women studying engineering and science in countries outside of the US. We hope to build and diversify our network, to make our community even stronger! Some interesting questions come to mind: Do graduate women in South America, for example, face the same issues commonly faced by graduate women in the States?  How different are job prospects? Is there an imbalance of women and men in technical programs? This dialogue would be a great one to get started, as we could widen our horizons and gain a better understanding of how science is conducted around the world!

As a first step, I would like to collect some information from the current SWE Grad followers. Have you ever participating in an international research collaboration, studied abroad in grad school, attended an international conference or short course, etc? I’ve been fortunate to travel abroad a few times in graduate school, one to France for a short course and once to Brazil for a research collaboration. These experiences were amazing for so many reasons! I advanced technically, gained knowledge and research skills to bring back to the US, and I benefited from being immersed in a different culture. For example, while the research goals for a typical day may be similar in Brazil, France or the US, the way in researchers achieve those goals are vastly different, but they all work. What’s been so great for me is that I can now adopt parts of those cultures and research norms to really make my graduate experience in the US unique and my own!

So, tell me a little bit about your international research experience! You can either fill out the form below, respond to this post, or just drop me an email.

Posted by Sofie Leon, International Coordinator,

New Coordinators Join the Team!

I’d like to welcome the three new coordinators joining our graduate leadership team for FY14!

Katharine Brumbaugh, Regional Conference Coordinator
Katharine is currently pursuing her PhD in Aerospace Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin. She received her MS from UT Austin as well, and her BS in Aeronautical/Astronautical Engineering from Purdue University. She has been involved with SWE since 2009.

Sofie Leon, International Coordinator
Sofie is currently pursuing her PhD in Civil Engineering at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champagin. She received her MS from UIUC as well, and her BS in Civil Engineering from California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo. She has been involved with SWE since 2006.

Vivian Chu, Webinars Coordinator
Vivian is currently pursuing her PhD in Robotics at the Georgia Institute of Technology. She received her MS from the University of Pennsylvania, and her BS in Electrical and Computer Engineering from University of California, Berkeley. She has been involved with SWE since 2006.

For more information, please see the graduate leadership page.