Using Technical Spanish as an Intern in Mexico

Coming from a Mexican/British background, I have always had interest in experiencing the Mexican culture in a professional manner. In the summer of 2005, I experienced its culture first-hand through an internship program hosted by Mayan Resorts. I applied my architectural training from Rice University in Acapulco, Mexico where the firm, which owns the largest chain of resorts in Mexico, is expanding its beautiful beach front property.

As a fluent conversational Spanish speaker, I focused on learning the technical terms and practices utilized on the construction site. I tested materials, took measurements, and produced construction drawings. I also faced the obstacle of gaining the respect of others since architecture is a male dominated profession in Mexico. This inspired me to ask questions to
understand as much as possible about the construction process, and as a result, I gained more confidence. I will carry this confidence with me into the future.

Stephanie Quibb on the
job site in Acapulco
Not only was this experience great academically, but it was also wonderful meeting many people from different cultures. Other interns were from Canada, Latin America, and Mexico, as well as the US. I established many friendships that made my experience more enjoyable and met professionals that could be contacts for the future. We also spent time learning about Mexico’s history and culture, which has left an unforgettable impression.

This experience will help me in my pursuit of becoming a successful architect. I will be more versatile in understanding practices and styles outside the United States. I strongly recommend practicing abroad to all students; they not only can have a wonderful summer, but they can benefit from the real-world application of their studies.

Photos of the EWB projects and
the people they assist are on view at

Engineers Without Borders’ Leaders Use Communication, Engineering Savvy

Rice University’s Engineers without Borders (EWB) is one of a hundred fast-growing university chapters. It has four international projects: two in Nicaragua, one in El Salvador, and one in Mexico. These projects must benefit the entire community, be ecologically sustainable, reflect the desires and commitment of the entire community, and apply sound engineering principles.

The success of their engineering projects in developing countries depends in part on their ability to explain engineering concepts and to interact with individuals and communities that have little experience with modern engineering. To ensure that their projects benefit the

entire community, the students must find ways to involve everyone in discussions and decision-making. In some developing countries, the culture calls for prominent men to make all the decisions. Students must insist on effective communication processes to ensure that everyone’s needs are expressed and addressed.

Entering these cultures, Rice women engineers must communicate strategically in these projects to gain acceptance as professionals. In the El Salvador culture, men felt obligated to take over physical tasks. “It was hard for the women engineers to keep a shovel in their hands,” said one of the team leaders on the project headed by Alex Gordon, Ross Gordon, David Kelvin, and Stewart Walther. This communication issue is significant because the Rice chapter consists of approximately fifty percent women, and the president for 2006-2007 is a woman Civil and Environmental Engineering major concentrating on environmental science and economics, Deepa Panchang.

Similarly, to ensure that projects are sustainable and well maintained after the student teams leave, the principles on which they are based must be understood by the community. Students must find accessible and straightforward analogies to explain processes. Explaining EWB itself was critical to raising over $100,000 in support EWB’s projects. We applaud the many instances of exemplary communication by the EWB students and their demonstration that engineering communication is a crucial part of effective engineering.


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