Q&A with Mandy Gavin studying abroad in Hong Kong

Photo of Mandy Gavin

Mandy Gavin

Mandy Gavin, University of Iowa undergraduate engineering student, studied abroad in Hong Kong during the summer of 2015. She applied for and received several scholarships, including a Global Engineering Scholarship and a Center for Asian and Pacific Studies Study Abroad in Asia Scholarship. Gavin also used the Summer Hawk Tuition Grant to help fund her study abroad experience.

Last summer, Gavin worked as a continuous improvement intern at PMX Industries. For this summer, she has secured an internship with Alliant. While interviewing for the Alliant internship position, Gavin feels her study abroad experience helped her stand out, calling it a ‘gold star’ in the eyes of her employers.

Hometown:  Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Field of study:  industrial engineering major (energy and sustainability focus)

Campus leadership and involvement: 

  • President, Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineers (IISE)
  • Co-Director, 2018 IISE North-Central Regional Conference
  • Peer Consultant, Hanson Center for Technical Communication in the College of Engineering
  • UI main power plant intern
  • Dance Marathon

How did you decide to study abroad?

I knew I wanted to study abroad as soon as I got to college—it was number one on my list. I went to the Study Abroad Fair, but couldn’t decide where I wanted to go, so I talked to my study abroad advisor to learn more about the process. I chose the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) Engineering Exchange Program. It was a really good option for me in terms of the courses offered, the location, and my schedule. The summer HKUST program offered a lot of opportunities to meet students from other areas of the world. I met people from London, Spain, South Korea, and Singapore. People were really willing to make new friends, study together, and explore the city together.

What did you think of Hong Kong?

It’s such an amazing mix of big city and nature. A lot of my time was spent exploring different parts of the city. A favorite memory was seeing the “Symphony of Lights” at the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront, which offered an amazing view of the city. But there’s so much nature to experience, as well. I took some hiking trips and there were mountains and rivers to explore, too.

Photo of Mandy Gavin and friends at the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront

Mandy Gavin with friends at the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront, enjoying the “Symphony of Lights”

Any advice for students thinking about studying abroad?

When you’re studying abroad, remember that you are “studying” abroad! You will have some free time to travel and explore the country you’re in, but you will be busy with coursework and studying. Also, if you’re thinking about studying abroad, visit the Study Abroad office as soon as possible. There are a lot of resources and people there to help you think about locations, timing, programs, and course offerings that might work with your major. For example, as an engineering student it worked really well for me to study abroad the summer after my first year.

What do you miss about Hong Kong?

I miss a lot of things about Hong Kong--the people, trying all of the different foods, being in a big city and having the opportunity to explore. In some ways, Hong Kong became another home for me and I miss the sights, sounds, and smells.

You mentioned different foods. Are you an adventurous eater?

If you see something that’s strange and exotic and you want to try it-- be sure to do it! You don’t want to miss the opportunity. The most interesting food that I tried was octopus. I wasn’t crazy about it, but I’m glad I tried it. I also tried ostrich meat, which tasted like a mix of pork and venison. My favorite meal was hot pot. The broth is heated right in front of you, and then you add your veggies and meat in to the broth to cook. It’s a meal that is shared with others, and the spices are amazing.

What do employers think about your study abroad experience?

Study abroad looks fantastic to employers in many ways. I have been specifically asked about my study abroad experience in interviews. It shows employers that you know how to work with different types of people and gain an appreciation of different perspectives and ways of life. I started to look at the bigger picture of the world and learn how to attack problems differently. After studying abroad, I see the world in a whole new way, and it’s amazing.

What else did you learn?

I became much more adaptable. Things go wrong, things change, and you can’t always plan things out perfectly in advance. You have to go with the flow, and I learned to do that. Another thing would be decision making. Just being more self-sufficient, making my own decisions, and going with them.

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