Student Name: Evelyn Lawrie
Graduation Year: 2024
Majors: Computer Science and Spanish
Extracurricular Involvements: Former President of the Research and Development Club

Chapman University strives to create a holistic education experience where students are encouraged to grow beyond their major by taking on different minors or second majors. Beyond our immediate borders, Chapman’s Center for Global Education (CGE) works with students to explore study-abroad opportunities, regardless of their major. Since the institution aligned with her personal growth and exploration values, Evelyn Lawrie chose Chapman.

While pursuing a computer science degree, Lawrie decided to study Spanish. “I wanted to learn not only about engineering and computer science but to have a second area of study that made me a more well-rounded engineer.” shared Lawrie. In addition to her rigorous engineering major, she added Spanish as her second major.

Setting a New Path for Engineering Students

Studying abroad opens up new possibilities for students, and some engineering students may overlook this opportunity. “Sadly, the myth that engineering majors don’t lend themselves to study abroad opportunities still exists. We are working to combat this in Fowler Engineering and encourage our students to take advantage of the wonderful global study opportunities Chapman provides,” shared Sr. Associate Dean, Erik Linstead. 

Assistant Director of the Center for Global Education, Daniel Garcia mentioned that only “6% of the Chapman students who study abroad are engineering students.” Studying abroad serves as a unique experience for engineering students to discover parts of humanity they might not otherwise. 

“Many of my Fowler Engineering students come to me initially thinking that they cannot participate because they cannot take engineering courses abroad. Engineering courses are available in many of our semester-abroad programs. Additionally, we just opened a new summer program at Hanyang University (ISEP Direct) in Seoul, South Korea specifically for Engineering students with many Engineering courses,” shared Garcia.

For engineering students, immersing themselves in a new culture can sharpen their interpersonal skills. These outcomes inspired Lawrie to seek assistance from CGE for her travels.

Utilizing Resources for Personal Growth

Lawrie met with CGE during her first year at Chapman to plan an extensive study abroad experience. Garcia served as Lawrie’s Global Education Advisor and assisted her by helping her plan the study-abroad semester and navigate the application process.

“Through advanced planning and determination, she made these goals happen. She always came prepared to the advising appointments with having done extensive research beforehand,” said Garcia. 

To explore her options, Lawrie met regularly with her Global Education Advisor and secured her application for the 2023 spring semester. Unlike other students seeking study abroad opportunities, Lawrie’s application included a language evaluation since her classes would be entirely in Spanish while attending the Pontifical Catholic University of Valparaíso in Chile.

Evelyn Lawrie posing with a small town in Chile in the background.

Evelyn attended the Pontifical Catholic University of Valparaíso in Chile while studying abroad.

Overcoming Differences and Challenges

While most of her studying abroad peers were taking courses taught in English, Lawrie’s engineering courses were completely in Spanish. For an entire semester, Lawrie studied computer science and programming alongside native Chilean students. 

“I took courses with just Chilean students. So, I was going against the norm of the program. At times, I didn’t know what was going on, and I had to figure it out for myself or know who to ask certain questions. It shows a lot about independence, autonomy, and initiative.” said Lawrie. Although Lawrie had been studying Spanish for nearly two years before traveling to Chile, she often struggled with their cultural vernacular. 

Lawrie’s knowledge of the Spanish language and computer science prepared her throughout her coursework. However, her biggest hurdle was overcoming the differing gender dynamics. “Something that surprised me when taking engineering courses was that Chilean women are discouraged from pursuing engineering degrees,” said Lawrie. Attending male-dominated classrooms came as a shock to this double-major Chapman student. This led Lawrie to navigate discrimination in group classwork dynamics constantly. 

In addition to differing gender expectations, Lawrie had to adjust to larger classroom sizes where communication between students and instructors was slim. With her two-plus years at Chapman, Lawrie had become accustomed to the smaller class sizes in higher education.

The Transition from Studying Abroad

Lawrie returned to the Fowler School of Engineering for the fall 2023 semester. The transition from Chilean large-lecture halls to Chapman’s smaller classroom sizes made Lawrie appreciate the opportunity to connect with her professors. She said, “having more personal attention from professors and more of the community aspect, is something I really appreciate about Chapman and something that I did miss while studying abroad.”

At the Fowler School of Engineering, the faculty and mentors foster an environment of collaboration for our students to emulate our mission of engineering for all. The impression left by Lawrie’s studying abroad experience has inspired her to become a force for all women hoping to pursue engineering.  “It really reinforced me to be a positive force in engineering, being a woman in STEM, and to show other women that they can pursue this field no matter the barriers.” 

Her research mentors, like Professor Erik Linstead, have witnessed Lawrie’s dedication to her academic career, “Evelyn is an independent thinker but excels at collaborating with others. As a research assistant, I always knew no matter what she was working on, her contributions would be excellent!”, shared Linstead.

Evelyn Lawrie with other research students at the Fall Scholar Symposium

Lawrie has conducted research alongside Senior Associate Dean Erik Linstead and Assistant Professor LouAnne E. Boyd.

Lawrie’s Advice for Studying Abroad

Before her freshman year, Lawrie knew she would take advantage of Chapman’s study abroad opportunities but for students who are considering traveling abroad later in their academic careers, Lawrie encourages them to seek assistance from the Center for Global Education. 

“Having those meetings early on helps solidify that it’s possible and you can make it work. And definitely try to save electives for study abroad because that makes it a lot easier. So you have more flexibility in the classes you could take.” advised Lawrie. 

Although Lawrie naturally thrives outside of her comfort zone, studying abroad still had its challenges. Regardless, this engineering student wouldn’t change her experience. 

“Studying abroad pushed me out of my comfort zone so much and it made me grow as a person. Having those interpersonal skills, global fluency, cultural competency – those skills can be applied to engineering when we’re working with different types of people and understanding people with different backgrounds and being able to communicate better.”

Engineering happens all around the world. Although it may happen in different languages using new technologies, engineers are connected by their creativity and innovation. That is something everyone understands.

Fowler Engineering students interested in studying abroad should visit the Center for Global Education.