As an undergraduate, Sophie Mehl seized the opportunity to study abroad in Valencia, Spain, where she expanded her language skills and her taste for adventure.
Mehl earned her bachelor’s in materials science and engineering (MSE) at Michigan Tech in 2022. She minored in international Spanish and actually completed her degree in Spain, absorbing the rich culture, history and language of the country. From exploring the vibrant streets of Valencia to learning about the region's unique traditions, she gained invaluable experiences that will shape her personal and professional future.
Now pursuing her master's in MSE at Tech — and fresh off a four-month internship at SpaceX (her second summer there!) — Mehl shares the preparation and experiences that made studying abroad successful and enjoyable.
Q: Why did you want to study abroad?
SM: I’ve always wanted to be immersed in a completely different culture. I had never traveled outside of the United States. I wanted to see different parts of the world and go on new adventures. I wanted to see life from a new perspective and open up my mind to new ways of living and new values. I’ve been studying Spanish since I was young and knew that studying abroad in a Spanish-speaking country would significantly improve my speaking skills.
Q: How did you prepare to study abroad?
SM: I took Spanish classes at Michigan Tech to practice my speaking skills. I watched some YouTube travel series discussing Spanish culture so I had a better idea of daily life and could feel more mentally prepared. I also researched fun and interesting places to travel to in Spain, common Spanish cuisine, and common holidays and traditions so that I would have a better idea of where I wanted to go and what I wanted to try.
"I feel like you can never fully prepare for an experience abroad, but that’s OK! It’s important to learn to adapt to changes as you go through them and to be willing to try new things when they come your way."
Q: Do you have tips for students who are thinking about studying abroad?
SM: If you’re considering studying abroad, set up a meeting with Michigan Tech Study Abroad to get more information, learn about different options and see what could work best for you. Reach out to students who have studied abroad, because they can tell you about their experiences and give you tips on the application process, getting your passport and visa, and traveling in general.
Apply for as many scholarships as possible. I was able to get almost my whole study abroad experience paid for by scholarships, which was an opportunity to save money so that I could travel to other countries while I was in Europe. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that you don’t want to pass up, so don’t let fear or confusion be limiting factors. Ask advisors, teachers and students for help with the application process and get your questions about travel answered. It will help you in the long run and it’s definitely worth it!
Study Away and Abroad Experiences
Huskies who are ready for adventure (and a boost to their resumes) can choose from faculty-led, exchange, internships, research and international engineering Senior Design programs. Visit Michigan Tech Study Abroad to get started. Learn more about eligibility, funding and planning and watch Huskies Abroad share their experiences.
Q: Where did you travel and what are your favorite memories?
SM: During my time abroad I traveled to different countries almost every week to experience different cultures. I rode a camel in Morocco, visited my extended family for the first time in Greece, windsurfed in the Mediterranean Sea, made traditional chocolate in Belgium, attended Oktoberfest in Germany, enjoyed Italian cuisine — and so much more!
Q: Did anything surprise you about Spain or international travel in general?
SM: Seeing the art, architecture, history and different lifestyles of people in countries around Europe opened my mind to perspectives outside of the way I grew up in the U.S. Not to mention, I was able to experience all of this with other students in my program who have become my lifelong friends!
Q: What were your studies like?
SM: My classes were all related to Spanish writing and speaking, which helped me to truly immerse myself in the language. I also had a class on Spanish culture and civilization that taught me a lot about the history of Spain and the daily lives of the Spanish people. We went on multiple field trips and excursions around Spain to tour historical and cultural sites.
Q: How did you make friends while you were abroad?
SM: I made friendships with other U.S. students by going on weekend trips and excursions to explore Spain and other European countries. I made friends with Spanish students at my university through language exchange programs and participated in activities with international student groups so that I could meet students from other countries.
Michigan Technological University is a public research university founded in 1885 in Houghton, Michigan, and is home to more than 7,000 students from 55 countries around the world. Consistently ranked among the best universities in the country for return on investment, Michigan’s flagship technological university offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, computing, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, social sciences, and the arts. The rural campus is situated just miles from Lake Superior in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, offering year-round opportunities for outdoor adventure.