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MIT European Club funds fellowships to promote cross-cultural understanding

Student group has donated $145K for MISTI student internships at non-profits in France, Germany, Italy, and Spain.
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Since 2011, the MIT European Club has given $145,000 to the MIT International Science and Technology Initiatives (MISTI) to fund internships in Europe. “For many of us,” says MIT President L. Rafael Reif, “coming to MIT gave us the feeling that we had 'come home.’ By making it possible for MIT students to engage in MISTI internships in Europe, the members of the MIT European Club have found a beautiful way to share their experience of the power of being 'home' in two places. This act of giving back speaks to the deepest values of MIT."

This summer, as in past years, four students are interning, researching, and studying through the MISTI-European Club partnership. At the Robotics Center at MINES ParisTech, junior Amado Antonini is adapting code to develop a simultaneous localization and mapping (SPAM) technique based on human sight. In Italy, PhD student Rixt Woudstra is studying Italian colonial architecture, while Veronika Jedryka, a junior in biological engineering, analyzes muscle activity in paralyzed children at the Polytechnic University of Madrid. In Germany, mechanical engineering PhD candidate Amanda Yousseuf evaluates the effect of high temperature on silicon wafers at the Fruanhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems.

Antonini, Woudstra, Jedryka, and Yousseuf are the most recent batch of the students who have interned in Europe thanks to the support of the MIT European Club. “One of the tasks of our club is to teach our students about the great old continent — its history, culture, architecture, and, moreover, its way of life,” says European Club president Giulio Alighieri. “Through MISTI internships, MIT students apply their hands-on education to challenges in a new environment. However, unlike most MISTI students who travel across the globe to intern and research at a variety of host organizations, MISTI-European Club fellows are placed at European non-profits — such as the German Cancer Research Center and Madrid Institute for Advanced Studies of Materials — where they can conduct their own research and give back to the community. “There is a great sense of community when members of a group help each other,” Alighieri says. “When you give something to somebody else just for the sake of giving. The MISTI-European Club fellowship is our way of saying 'community' is not just a word on the MIT campus.”   

According to Alighieri, the club’s mission is to connect American and European philosophies: “In the United States it is far more common than in Europe for alumni to give to their alma maters. As Europeans at MIT we embrace this philanthropic culture, and we try to go beyond it,” he explains. “As a result, we have seen this donation to MISTI as a way to behave like true Americans while also providing MIT students with an introduction to Europe. Our aim is to give back to the MIT community even when we are still students.”

Established in 1994, the club hosts social, networking, and intramural sporting events. In fact, a majority of MISTI-European Club fellowships are made possible thanks to the club’s annual European Career Fair, which connects European employers with students from the greater Boston area. In addition to the career fair, the club hosts hiking, skiing, and boating trips throughout New England for its members. “The European Club is dedicated to encouraging involvement from both undergraduate and graduate students, as well as providing opportunities for all to become involved in celebration, networking, and career opportunities,” explains Leah Flynn Gallant, assistant dean and director for student leadership and engagement in the Office of Student Activities. “The European Club is a wonderful addition to our student organizations at MIT," Gallant notes.

The MIT European Club is a student activity club run comprised of 300 postdocs, grad students, undergraduates, and visiting scientists. Giulio Alighieri (president), Gaurav Chaurasia (vice-president), Christina Galonska (secretary), Xiaoyu Leo Wu (treasurer), and Aleksandra Kalinowska (communication chair) make up the club’s current executive board.

Each year MISTI sends over 780 students to over 19 locations to intern, research, and teach at leading companies, research institutes, and universities. MISTI is the flagship international education experience at MIT and a part of MIT’s School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (MIT-SHASS), whose faculty invented and orchestrate the program. Read more about MISTI student experiences on the MISTI website.

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