A Whirlwind Tour of How Silicon Valley Gets Things Done

Zeijing University students with their mentors
Zhejiang University students take in the foggy Golden Gate with their mentors.

Sang Woo Son, from Korea, was surprised to find that cars stop for pedestrians in the Bay Area. For Hao Peng, from China, the sight of Pier 39 and the seawater “was really amazing and helped me release my stress.”

Every year, a handful of international engineering students who seek innovative design and entrepreneurship experience arrive in Silicon Valley for a three-week intensive program at San Jose State. They learn about Silicon Valley through lectures and field trips, but they also learn about collaboration, project management and presentation -- and they have a lot of fun along the way.

Keyri Moreira Ruiz coordinated this year’s Summer in Silicon Valley Program, hosted by International Gateways in the College of Professional and Global Education. Ruiz reported on the student activities, which included field trips to company sites. This summer, students from Zhejiang University in China, Chung Yuan Christian University in Taiwan, and Gyeongsang National University in South Korea, attended.

“During the first week the students took two company tours of EAG Laboratories and Intel,” said Ruiz. “At EAG Labs, students learned about material engineering and the different machines used to study particles including their surface and molecules. At Intel, a group of engineers spoke about their responsibilities and experiences, and how networking is important in today's world. They also shared that, being international students themselves, it was a bit difficult to adjust to the American culture, but they persevered.”

For Song Ei Jin from Gyeongsang National University, Intel was a favorite company trip. “It was good because they had Korean workers giving advice about how to go abroad. They gave us a lot of confidence.”

Working together on a team project was an essential part of the intensive experience. When asked about what she learned, HeeJung Kwak from Gyeongsang said, “[At first] it was hard to discuss and speak my ideas in English, but it became natural after talking regularly. It was interesting that people from different countries have different perspectives, and that was helpful to widen my own perspective.”

Lingchang Zhou from Zhejiang University added, “Even though there is an obstacle for communication, I enjoyed the project. I learned how to cooperate with people from different backgrounds. This will be helpful if I work in international companies.”

Students also visited San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge and tried different restaurants to expand their horizons. They also toured the Exploratorium, Pier 39, Fisherman's Wharf and Ghirardelli Square. In the South Bay, they learned about American culture at Levi's Stadium, the Computer History Museum, the NASA Ames Visiting Center, and the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. For some, this was their first visit to a beach.

Back on campus, Ruiz and International Gateways kept the students occupied with events such as Coffee, Tea and Karaoke Night; Bar-B-Que Night; Bowling Night and a pool party. Ruiz explained, “What was wonderful about this was that students were able to meet other students from different countries. In some cases, students met others attending the same university they were enrolled in.”

For Chengjun Kong (from Zhejiang University), one highlight was lunch at the Cheesecake Factory -- but it was about more than the food. “We had a great time enjoying each other’s company and we broke down some of the barriers that language [differences] had presented—we talked about life, social life, relationships, food, etc. We had effective communication all throughout the day, making it seem like a normal day with friends we’ve known for a long time.”

Learn more about Summer in Silicon Valley.