A Whole New World: International Students Head to Tech for Summer Youth Programs

By Danny Messinger | Published

International students find much worth traveling for in Michigan Tech's Summer Youth Programs
International students find much worth traveling for in Michigan Tech's Summer Youth Programs

Although classes are out for the majority of Michigan Technological University students, there’s still an energetic buzz on campus. Summer Youth Programs—hands-on Mind Trekkers summer camps and career explorations for students in grades six through eleven—are in full swing, giving pre-college students a taste of campus life.

The experience is certainly not only for students from Michigan—or the Midwest. This year, students representing more than 10 nations (among them Turkey, Haiti, Argentina and Russia) are attending a program on Michigan Tech’s campus. From forensic science crime scene investigation to aerospace engineering to digital photography, global citizens can easily find a program to suit their talents and interests.

With a safe, welcoming environment for overseas education, more international students have been attending Summer Youth Programs every year.

“A lot of other countries only have one month off of school in the summer, unlike the entire summer being a vacation here,” said Jessica Banda, administrative intern for Summer Youth Programs. “Schools in other countries often encourage—or require—students to do something academic over their summer break.”

This year, a total of 32 students from South Korea will be taking part in Summer Youth Programs. Most attend the same school, which prepares students for careers in science and engineering.

“Our school found several camps in the United States for us,” said one student from Sawon, South Korea. “We must choose one to attend on our break. I want to make spaceships in the future. At Michigan Tech, I built model planes. Then, we go to the gym to fly them to see if they work.”

Students come from across the globe to experience not only cutting-edge, hands-on classroom demonstrations, but also American culture. With Summer Youth Programs participants living on-campus, eating in dining halls and attending evening recreational activities together, students are constantly immersed in a mix of cultures.

“I have some friends who have had foreign education experiences,” said one young woman from Beijing, China. “I want to come to America to have a summer camp, so I decided to come to Michigan Tech. I want to be an architect.”

To ensure international students get an accurate picture of life in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, excursions to popular local attractions are held every weekend. From trips to Lake Superior beaches to hikes up local mountains, students say they are striking a great balance between academics and recreation.

“Another big benefit international students receive is by being engaged in our English-speaking culture,” said Stephen Patchin, director of youth programs. “They really sharpen their verbal communication skills during their adventure here. Our domestic students also pick up on some Mandarin, Russian, Korean, French and Spanish as they create new friendships.”

Plus, with the increasingly large role social media plays in young people's lives, Patchin says international students are, more and more, making around-the-world friends that they will have for a lifetime.

“With social media playing such an integral part of this younger generation’s communication network, friends they make here become friends for life. A trait that bonds them all is the excitement and willingness to learn in an innovative, nontraditional way, which is what our programs excel at offering.”

Nothing showcases Summer Youth Program participants’ eagerness and enthusiasm better than the challenges international students take head-on by coming to Michigan Tech. From flying halfway around the world (and, for one young man from South Korea, adapting to plenty of canceled flights along the way) to getting a crash-course in a second language, these students say the experience has been extremely rewarding.

“My teacher for computer programming didn’t just say ‘do this, do this,’” said a student from Turkey. “He gave us a game and we started programming, and he explained everything very well. We do things ourselves here.”

Michigan Technological University is a public research university, home to more than 7,000 students from 54 countries. Founded in 1885, the University offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, and social sciences. Our campus in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula overlooks the Keweenaw Waterway and is just a few miles from Lake Superior.