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  • Zoe Miloszewski ('26)

RSAP:Virginia Tech’s Rising Sophomore Abroad Program Virginia Tech’s Rising Sophomore Abroad Program

During RSAP 2019, students visit the Austrian countryside and pose in front of the Alps. Photo credit:

Many college students hope for the chance to travel the world, but not all know how to go about pursuing that dream. Virginia Tech has hundreds of study abroad programs that allow students to fulfill their international aspirations while also earning credit towards their degree. The Rising Sophomore Abroad Program (RSAP) is one such program that helps engineering students gain exposure to global learning with a 2-week program abroad. This trip takes place right after students complete their spring semester of freshman year. Their experience abroad is paired with a 3-credit course called Global STEM Practice (ENGE 1644) that is taken during the spring semester prior to the trip. This course introduces the importance of global connections in engineering to students while also studying how culture and background influence engineering practices. There are 7 different tracks of the RSAP program this year, each including 2 different countries, so students will certainly be able to find a destination they’d like to explore. RSAP is designed to build students’ comfort with international travel and expand their knowledge about international engineering practice in order to promote their engagement in other study abroad opportunities or internships.

VT students at the Hassan Tower Mosque in Rabat, Morocco. Photo by Lisa Schibelius.
VT students at the Hassan Tower Mosque in Rabat, Morocco. Photo by Lisa Schibelius.

The students participating in RSAP this May will be going to some very exciting places around the world. The 7 tracks are Argentina and Chile, Australia and New Zealand, Germany and Italy, Japan and South Korea, Norway and Finland, Spain and Morocco, and the UK and Ireland. These tracks each clearly offer a unique and diverse opportunity to learn about the culture of a particular region of the world. This year will only be the second time the program has run since it was shut down in 2020 due to the pandemic. Last year, there were still limitations on the program, and only 4 tracks were available. The extensive itinerary and staggering list of countries to visit for RSAP 2023 is exciting proof of the vitality of the program, even in the wake of COVID-19.

There aren’t any academic prerequisites for the RSAP program; students must simply complete the application! The application for the 2024 spring semester course and RSAP program will be open in August of 2023. Any incoming freshman engineering student can apply for the program until midway through their first semester. Though students will not yet have a GPA when they apply, their GPA will be checked at the end of the first semester and a GPA of at least 2.5 is required to continue in the program. Each track has a slightly different cost due to the nature of each respective destination, but the average cost is about $5,500. This price includes airfare, housing, ground travel in the destination countries, activity and excursion fees, and most meals. There are also multiple scholarship opportunities available to students who wish to participate in the program but may need financial assistance.

Students pose under a plane at the German Technology Museum. Photo by Jessica Deters.
Students pose under a plane at the German Technology Museum. Photo by Jessica Deters.

The RSAP program is designed so that students of any major within the College of Engineering will be able to benefit from the trip. While students are exploring the countries on their track, they will also be touring engineering companies and meeting with employees to learn more about what engineering looks like around the world. They will also have the opportunity to meet with engineering students like them studying at universities in whichever country they visit. Since engineering is such a collaborative field, these opportunities will be applicable in some way to everyone on the trip, regardless of their specific major. Siddharth Tibrewala, an aerospace engineering student who will be participating in RSAP this May, says he is “really looking forward to visiting the different places in the UK and Ireland and also meeting people from different companies that we are going to tour.” When asked what he enjoys most about Global Stem Practices this semester, he said “it’s helping me meet a lot of new people that I would not have met before”. Considering these students will be spending 2 weeks together in another country this summer, it’s great that the class gives them an opportunity to get to know one another before they take off.

RSAP is truly a one of a kind opportunity, and since it’s only available to students after their first year at Tech, it’s something that incoming students should highly consider. For anyone who is considering studying abroad but may not want to commit to a full semester in another country, RSAP provides an excellent opportunity to get comfortable with the idea of spending an extended period of time outside of the U.S., especially for students who may have never left the country before.

Students on a guided tour of London. Photo by Malle Schilling.
Students on a guided tour of London. Photo by Malle Schilling.

Studying abroad is a great way for students to expand their horizons and experience other cultures. Since engineering is an extremely global field, it’s especially great for engineering students to have experience communicating and working with others outside of the U.S. Virginia Tech is certainly ahead of the game with RSAP; our neighboring Virginia universities only offer the traditional semester, winter, or summer abroad programs. This program is a one of a kind opportunity, and aside from the personal benefits of traveling and meeting people from different backgrounds than oneself, it provides an excellent talking point for interviews and develops a skillset that engineering companies will be thrilled to see on a resume.

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