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
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
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.
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
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
a crucial part of effective engineering.