ANDERSON – Growing up in Shirley, Sean Taylor, 24, never dreamed he would go abroad.
But this summer, the Purdue Polytechnic mechatronics engineering technology major and schoolmates Tanner Harvey and Alex Melton not only went abroad, they did internships at Noblesville-based SMC Corp. of America’s Japanese affiliate.
Taylor also participated in a study abroad course for statewide students that included two weeks in Munich and Hamburg, Germany, as well as Prague in the Czech Republic and Rotterdam in the Netherlands.
“The biggest thing is how the cultures really affect the workplace,” said Taylor, who took advantage of both opportunities.
It’s only the second time Purdue Polytechnic students have had overseas internship opportunities. Three years ago, an engineering technology major interning at Technoplast USA, an Italian plastic fabrication company in the Flagship Industrial Park, went to Italy to work with lead engineers at the parent company.
While in Europe, Taylor toured a couple of automobile factories and Europe’s two largest shipping ports as part of a supply chain experience.
He also went on food tours, took side trips to castles and museums and attended Rotary International meetings.
“Refills is an American thing,” he said of his experiences eating in restaurants.
Taylor and Harvey said they were tasked with testing pneumatic valves for leaks, but the interns’ most important role in Japan was to establish connections, which really hadn’t been done before.
“The biggest thing was to see what I was learning in action, putting paper to motion,” Taylor said. “In Europe, there was no small talk. If there was a conversation, it was going for an hour.”
Harvey, who is from Anderson, said his Japanese coworkers were as interested in how the Americans did things as he was in how the Japanese fulfilled their tasks. But most knew only of the coastal cities of the United States and had very little knowledge of the interior.
Taylor and Harvey said they believe the productivity levels are much higher because people in Japan know how to continue working while talking.
“From a social standpoint, they’re very productive,” Harvey said, noting that it took him two weeks to complete tasks that Japanese workers completed in two days.
In their spare time, the American interns visited the Akihabara district of Tokyo for anime and hiked Aokigahara, the Suicide Forest.
“We also got to make it to the top of Fuji, which was a two-day hike,” Harvey said.
“I did the smart thing. I went halfway up then went to one of the bars,” Taylor quipped.
The trio were told before they left for Japan to take American candy with them to break the ice, so they loaded up on Jolly Ranchers, Snickers bars and Starburst.
“They gagged and said, ‘Ugh, too sweet,’” Harvey recounted.
Many of Purdue Polytechnic’s courses have global components, Student Affairs Administrator Richard J. Dwenger said.
“Many of our courses focus on the global economy, and the cultural nuance of working with overseas companies. But when students can experience these things first-hand, they are left with life-long impressions,” he said.
“Increased cultural and global awareness is becoming a key element for success in most professional careers. College graduates who have international experience interacting with people and business have set themselves apart from the rest.”
Corey Sharp, director of Purdue Polytechnic-Anderson, said the school has a globalization requirement for graduation, though for most, that does not necessarily mean overseas study or work.
“Two weeks in Germany is life changing, but living 2½ months outside Tokyo is really life changing,” he said.