Study abroad a career 'investment,' Abington alumnus says

Matt Handwerk

Penn State alumnus Matt Handwerk, who earned his degree in information sciences and technology in 2016, enrolled in a course as an undergraduate that included a brief study abroad component in China.

Credit: Courtesy Matt Handwerk

ABINGTON, Pa. — Penn State Abington alumnus Matt Handwerk committed early to software development as his career, but he credits study abroad and an international internship he completed later in his college experience for supplying him with the best options post-graduation.

“Study abroad programs are an investment that give you the edge you need to land your dream job,” said Handwerk, who works as a solutions engineer at mutual fund giant American Funds in Southern California.

Handwerk, who graduated in 2016 with a degree in information sciences and technology (IST), started his degree at Abington before spending his final semesters at University Park.

In 2014, he enrolled in a course that included a brief study abroad component (also known as an embedded course) in China with faculty and students from the Abington IST program. The first half of the course offered the Abington students the technical and cultural background they needed to study in China.

The second half was the 10 days studying abroad. The course gave the group experience working with people from different cultural backgrounds in a project-team setting, enhancing their communication and teamwork skills.

The IST students and Abington faculty toured Beijing, the capital of China, for five days. Then they traveled about 300 miles to Heibei University of Science and Technology in the city of Shijiazhuang. Each day, the IST students attended class with their cohorts at Heibei. And by the end of the week, the Abington and Heibei students had collaborated to complete a project.

"Study abroad, learn a new technology, and work with people from across the campus and globe. These experiences will help you build your brand — a brand that future employers won’t be able to pass up.”

— Matt Handwerk, 2016 Penn State alumnus 

Handwerk credits Joe Oakes, assistant teaching professor of IST, and Dolores Rafter Arevalo, director of Global Programs & International Student Services, for connecting Abington students to global engagement opportunities and encouraging them to promote these programs to other students through organizations such as Global Ambassadors.

Handwerk’s time in China inspired him to sign up for a full semester study abroad program. In 2015, he completed several courses at Kanda University in Tokyo while interning as a software engineer there at Biz Mobile.

He also elevated his brand by completing four other internships while an undergraduate, including one as an application developer at Aetna insurance company in Connecticut.

Handwerk reflected on studying abroad in Asia recently and said the sights, sounds, food and culture made a lasting impression. But what stands out the most are the human connections and lifelong bonds built with classmates and new friends from around the globe.

“I returned from Asia with stronger friendships and a growing network of colleagues and professional acquaintances," he said. "My relationships thrived throughout my time in school and into my professional career.”

His advice to current students?

“Step outside of your comfort zone. Study abroad, learn a new technology, and work with people from across the campus and globe,” Handwerk said. “These experiences will help you build your brand — a brand that future employers won’t be able to pass up.”

About Penn State Abington

Penn State Abington provides an affordable, accessible, and high-impact education resulting in the success of a diverse student body. It is committed to student success through innovative approaches to 21st century public higher education within a world-class research university. With nearly 4,000 students, Penn State Abington is a residential campus that offers baccalaureate degrees in 19 majors, undergraduate research, the Schreyer honors program, NCAA Division III athletics, and more.