Interview: Meet Gwendal

In January, Olin welcomed 3 exchange students to campus for the spring semester. One of those students is Gwendal Plumier. Gwendal is an engineering student from Olin partner school KULeuven, a leading higher education and research university located in Belgium. He has come here to improve his English and his intercultural communication skills and to have the opportunity to learn from people and experiences, which is (of course) the Olin way!
How did you find Olin and why did you want to study here?
I found Olin on my institution’s website (Campus Group T, the industrial engineering wing of the University of Leuven), where there was a list of partner schools by country. I knew I wanted to study in the United States.
Tell us about your academic experience at Olin.
I chose 3 project-based courses at Olin which is a learning method not widely offered at my institution. I believe engineering is much more than just mathematics and scientific courses. You can have an unrivalled idea but without good communication with your team and investors, your idea will not see the light of day. I think studying at an American institution will help me improve my presentation and networking skills to help me launch a successful career.
How is life outside the classroom? Did you feel welcomed to Olin when you arrived?
From the first day on campus, I have felt welcomed to the Olin community. Some students were especially welcoming and consequently I met many students very quickly. I really like suite life and it has offered me the opportunity to become familiar with American culture through my suitemates.
When you reflect on why you came to the U.S. to study, do you feel you are accomplishing your goals?
The experience of working on projects that have a real world impact has exceeded my expectation. I have learned so much from meeting with people who would benefit from my group project. And I believe my English has improved because I am immersed in the language in my classes and dorm life.
Is there any part of Belgian culture that you miss?
Leuven is a very much a university town with lots of outdoor cafes and places to have a drink or coffee with your friends. That is one thing I miss but little else since I am so busy and enjoying myself at Olin.
Would you encourage Olin students to spend a semester at KULeuven or to visit you in Belgium?
Yes, definitely. Belgium is in the center of Europe and a very international place. It is the home of Stella Artois beer, excellent Belgium chocolate, and is known for its beautiful medieval towns and Renaissance architecture. With a population of over 11 million people, the country has distinctive ethnic regions including Dutch-speaking Flanders to the north, French-speaking Wallonia to the south and a German-speaking community to the east. My institution is the best engineering school in Belgium. It is only 20 minutes by train from Brussels, the capital. For students interested in international politics, Brussels is home to numerous international organizations. It is the de facto capital of the EU and the headquarters of NATO.

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