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Every college student looks forward to Spring Break, but the students who take “Contemporary Projects in Aerospace Manufacturing” look forward to it even more. As part of the class, students travel to São Paulo, Brazil, during Spring Break for a week-long study abroad experience.

“This program allowed me to see aircraft manufacturing on small and large scales,” said Natalie Cline, who recently graduated with her bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. “It gave me the unique opportunity to see how an aircraft is built from the ground up.”

The class does provide a unique experience for students outside of the traditional classroom. Aside from the study abroad trip, the class also travels around Florida to visit aircraft manufacturers within the state. Mechanical engineering student Mohsina Mahmood said this type of experiential learning brought the lessons she was taught to life.

“Academically, I learned a lot about the manufacturing process in the aviation industry and got to see firsthand how textbook processes were applied in real life,” Mahmood said. “Thanks to Embraer, Piper, SeaRey, and other companies we visited, I was able to learn about how ideas come to fruition in the aircraft industry and explore common manufacturing practices.”

Some of Mahmood’s favorite parts of the trip were the visits to the Brazilian Synchrotron Light Laboratory and to the headquarters of aircraft manufacturer Embraer. Of course, the trip isn’t entirely academic. The students do get to sightsee and immerse themselves in Brazil’s culture, which was Cline’s favorite part of the trip.

“I have travelled abroad before, however, never to South America,” Cline said. “This trip allowed me to learn beyond the classroom, through walking around local markets, tasting Brazilian cuisine, and learning about an international engineering company.”

The study abroad trip isn’t all about what the students see — it’s also about the people they meet. Cline and Mahmood said they made great connections both in the industry and in the program. For Samantha Denicola, an aerospace engineering major, those connections made the trip much more valuable.

“This program brought me fantastic new friends and I made some great experiences along with them,” Denicola said. “At first, I thought this program was too good to be true and was scared to go off on my own with all new people. But after meeting them, going on trips around Florida, and seeing them every week it slowly got easier. Natalie, Mohsina, and I made great memories together which will always make this trip unforgettable to me.”

Applications for the next study abroad trip are available at mae.ucf.edu/brazil. For more information, contact Professor Ali P. Gordon at ali.gordon@ucf.edu.