UConn’s EuroTech Program Celebrates 30 Years Preparing Engineering Students for Global Careers
By Olivia Drake, Written Communications Specialist
Raised on the outskirts of the University of Connecticut in Storrs, Malcolm Lewis ’24 grew up in a bilingual-speaking household. His mother, Anke Finger, a professor of German studies at the University of Connecticut, would frequently Deutsch zuhause sprechen, although Lewis’s primary language was always English.
So, when it came time to begin language studies in high school, Lewis naturally gravitated to German.
Lewis, who also enjoys mountain biking and tinkering with cars, decided to pursue a degree in mechanical engineering at UConn. And because of his interest in German, he also enrolled in UConn EuroTech, the German international engineering program.
Upon completion of the five-year program, Lewis will graduate with a dual degree—a B.A. in German and a B.S. in mechanical engineering.
“The nice thing about this program is that you are able to make it as easy or as difficult as you’d like,” Lewis said. “By that I mean you can spend your time taking mostly German classes or any other classes you find interesting, or you can challenge yourself and continue progressing in your area of study in a different environment. I would recommend this program to anyone that is considering moving to Europe or anyone that just wants some international experience.”
Now in its 30th year, EuroTech is continuing its mission to help prepare students for careers in the global market. On Oct. 23, 120 EuroTech Program alumni, current students, faculty, staff, special guests, and key corporate partners gathered at the UConn Alumni Center to commemorate three decades of achievement. Speakers included EuroTech alumni Ethan Beattie '23 and Emily Sweeney '19; current Eurotech student Hunter Rego '24; and industry speaker Stefan Ziegler, a lead engineer of modeling and forecasting at Eversource Energy. Sonja Kreibich, the Consul General of Germany, and Andreas Weissenbach of the Mechanical Engineering Department at Baden-Wuerttemberg Cooperative State University attended.
There's much to celebrate. More than 300 alumni have completed the Eurotech program since 1993, and in 2022, INSIGHT Into Diversity Magazine recognized UConn Eurotech with an “Inspiring Programs in STEM Award.”
“We’re so excited to celebrate the program’s accomplishments and honor those who continue to make it a success,” said EuroTech co-director Friedemann Weidauer, professor of German studies. “We have really worked to design the program to prepare students for a career in the global market by offering them a first-hand experience and practice of engineering in Germany.”
The UConn Eurotech program is open to any qualified engineering student and requires no previous knowledge of German. In addition to German studies coursework, Eurotech participants travel abroad as part of the Baden-Württemberg Exchange Program that allows students to receive credit for studies in the partner-state of Baden-Württemberg, Germany. Students attend universities in Heidelberg, Freiburg, Tübingen, Konstanz, Mannheim, Karlsruhe, Stuttgart, Hohenheim, and Ulm.
This fall, three College of Engineering students, including Thomas Miller III ’25, mechanical engineering; Isabell Sterett Lee ’25, materials science and engineering; and John Womelsdorf ’26, computer science and engineering; are studying abroad through EuroTech—Miller in Heidelberg and Sterett Lee and Womelsdorf in Stuttgart.
“I happen to be of the lovely coincidence that Germany has a great reputation for engineering, and half of my family lives there,” Womelsdorf said. “The EuroTech program has been the perfect opportunity to experience a foreign culture for an extended period of time, improve my German through the best way possible (immersion), and spend time with my family."
EuroTech students would begin taking German language courses their first year at UConn. Once abroad, students take a four-week intensive German language and culture course at their host institution before enrolling in classes.
During the second and third year, the EuroTech curriculum requires students to take German 3220: German Recitation in Applied Mechanics; German 3211: Introduction to the Sciences in German’ and German 3222: Fields of Technology. In 3221 and 3222, students are required to give a 10-minute presentation in German on a technical topic. Past topics have included public transport concepts, energy, particulate filters, delayed resonators, hydraulics, and chemical reactions.
As a final component of UConn EuroTech, students who are advanced in their engineering studies, foreign language skills, and interpersonal workplace skills, may participate in a six-month internship abroad. Students have interned with popular companies such as Merck, Böhringer-Ingelheim, Porsche, Fraunhofer Institute, Mercedes, Audi, and BMW, among many others.
During the Spring 2023 semester, Lewis, who attended the University of Stuttgart as part of the Baden-Württemberg exchange, worked as a bike mechanic for Bike’N Soul, the largest bike shop and rental provider in Saalbach-Hinterglemm, Austria.
“[The internship] was a fantastic learning experience for me and I greatly valued my time working for this company and it was a great steppingstone for things I am hoping to achieve in my future,” Lewis said. “At this point after spending a year in Germany and Austria I would consider myself fluent in German and I have even gained a better understanding of the language due to the fact that I had to learn to understand so many different dialects.”
Womelsdorf recently finished writing his resume in German and will start applying for his internship soon. “I am eyeing a couple companies, mainly: Bosch, Mercedes, and Fraunhofer (Research Institute)," he said.
By the time UConn EuroTech engineers graduate, they’ll have the ability to understand the German approach to business, communicate with fellow engineers, and be able to help the company become more successful in the American market, explained Sebastian Wogenstein, associate professor of German studies and academic advisor. “They’ll be equipped to work with many of the thousands of global companies that need engineers who can function in a variety of cultural settings.”
EuroTech alumnae Nicole Henry ’16 says the program gave her “the courage and the push” she needed to move back to Europe after graduating from UConn. Henry ended up moving the U.K., where she completed her Ph.D. in 2023 and works as a postdoc researcher. “The EuroTech program showed me how many incredible opportunities are available to you when you step outside your comfort zone,” she said in her EuroTech portrait.
Alumnus William "Cliff" Birtwell '11 moved to Berlin, Germany four years ago and co-found a the startup Meisterwerk. His co-founders, he said in his EuroTech portrait, "found it attractive to have an American on board, citing our reputation for having a strong work ethic. Living abroad and learning a culture firsthand was likely the most significant experience in my life so far."
And Aaditya Vyas ’13, who works as a senior software engineer at Pratt & Whitney considers the EuroTech program “by far the best decision” that he made as an undergraduate. “Earning a paycheck abroad, paying bills, working with German colleagues and collaborating in a foreign language challenged me in many ways, but I came out of the program as a much more well-rounded individual having completed this experience,” Vyas said in his EuroTech portrait.
Although Lewis relished his time schooling and working abroad, his post-UConn plans will likely keep him in the States.
“As of now I have no intentions of living in Europe, but I will more than likely at least be back to visit.”
Read more about UConn EuroTech's 30th anniversary online here.