Cockrell School of Engineering
The University of Texas at Austin

The Croatians have a phrase “tko ne riskira, ne profitira,” which translates in English to “nothing ventured, nothing gained.” This past summer 13 UT Austin students and a UT PGE faculty member embarked on the first UT PGE-sponsored study abroad program in Croatia.

The program provides students with insights on international oil and gas operations and the ability to learn computer programming in order to solve complex energy problems.

More than 3,000 Longhorns study in 80 countries every year, and UT Austin ranks second in the nation for the most students studying abroad, according to the Institute of International Education’s latest annual report. The Cockrell School of Engineering has a dedicated international office offering 14 summer faculty-led programs and 16 university exchange programs to students.

With UT PGE’s alumni working and living abroad population representing 60 countries, it is important for petroleum engineering students to participate in an international educational opportunity during their time on the Forty Acres.

"Students entering industry with global experience are at an advantage, as companies in this field often prefer a demonstrated ability to live abroad, or communicate with overseas partners and colleagues,” said Ellen Aoki, program coordinator of the International Engineering Education (IEE) office.

a broad learning experience

2016 UT PGE study abroad participants

The four-week Maymester, provides in-residence credit for PGE 310 (Formation and Solution of Geosystems Engineering Problems). The program targeted freshmen and sophomores with the goal of fulfilling a major course requirement and providing students an educational network that could positively impact their future careers. The students spent a month in Croatia, leaving Texas in late May and returning at the end of June.

Assistant professor Maša Prodanović led the program in a country where she has developed many strong academic and industry contacts. Prodanović earned her bachelor’s degree in applied mathematics at the University of Zagreb, located in the capital of Croatia.

“I owe much of my understanding of people and cultures, the important knowledge that goes beyond the facts and theory, to international education and travel,” said Prodanović. “I wanted to take students along to experience part of it, and hopefully set them on a path of integrated life-long learning.”

The World Is a Book – Those Who Do Not Travel Only Read a Page

The students spent two weeks in Zagreb, a bustling European city with a population of over 1 million within the metropolitan area. They took their class within the Department of the Faculty of Mining, Geology & Petroleum Engineering at the University of Zagreb. The summer class gives students a head start to prepare for their upcoming reservoir simulation classes.

“I learned about petroleum engineering outside of the U.S. and met some remarkable industry professionals, which helps me expand my network,” said Mirka Mendez, a second year UT PGE student. “The course was fast-paced, but I enjoyed it because we were a small group so it was easier to ask questions or get help. It also gave me an opportunity to know my professor and TA better than I would have in a regular semester on campus.”

The students had the opportunity to explore the city, but the majority of their time was spent devoted to academics. They were in class three hours a day, with office hours, homework and quizzes. Several Croatian graduate students also enrolled in the course, enabling UT Austin students to learn from people who have seen the world, more specifically industry, through a different lens.

“The Croatian people were incredibly driven and smart,” said second year UT PGE student Laura Bohorquez. “I was surprised at how easy it was to become close friends with people who have a completely different background, lifestyle, language and sense of humor.”

croatia web photo

After completing the PGE 310 course in the fourth week in Zagreb, the group traveled to Pula, Croatia to visit offshore gas platforms Ivana A and Ivana K in the Adriatic Sea. The tour of the platforms gave students an important understanding of how offshore rigs operate. While in the rig’s control room, the students saw the content covered in their class applied in a real-world format.

Oh The Places You Will Go!

Two weeks were spent in Dubrovnik with excursions to Plitvice and Split. The fortress looking historical city is set along the crystal blue waters of the Adriatic Sea. With a small population of less than 50,000, the city has recently gained fame by serving as a set of the hit HBO drama series “Game of Thrones.”

The students resided on-campus at the Inter-University Centre (IUC). The group participated in the Petroleum Engineering Summer School (PESS), a conference that brings together distinguished professors from all over the world to exchange knowledge. The interactive seminars provided key information to the students on technical, technological, environmental and economic issues in the petroleum and energy industries.

Even with a rigorous schedule and workload, the students found time to indulge in the local cuisine, swim at the local beaches and watch the Croatia fùtbol team play in the EuroCup.

“I highly recommend this experience to other students,” said second year UT PGE student Andrew Faulk, calling it a “once in a lifetime opportunity.” From the close interaction with Dr. Prodanović, company connections and excursions, “I believe this experience will help me in the long-term within industry.”