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 Media contact:  
 Phillip Rollfing  

Students thrive at Beijing internships

Zachry Construction provides Aggies
with life-changing experiences abroad



By the end of the summer, approximately 35 Texas A&M construction science students will be working as interns in Beijing, China on a major U.S. government construction project led by San Antonio-based Zachry Construction Corporation.

Since January 2005, the company as employed more than 40 construction science students for yearlong internships on the Beijing project, as well as a few other construction jobs at locations throughout the world.

A privately-owned construction and industrial maintenance service company, Zachry Construction Corporation is a member of the Department of Construction Science’s Construction Industry Advisory Council, an industry group providing advice and support for the department’s two academic programs.

“Zachry has been a good supporter of our program and, in addition to providing internships, they hire our students,” said Joe Horlen, assistant professor and interim associate head of the construction science department. “In turn, the students are getting good money for their efforts.”

A Zachry representative working on the Beijing project recently told Horlen that the “Aggie interns make every working day a delight.”

In fact, during their initial internship recruitment round, Horlen said, the Zachry representatives were so impressed by the Texas A&M applicants, that they hired six student interns, even though they had initially intended to hire only two. The company has since returned twice to recruit interns from the department, and the numbers keep growing.

“First they took six out of about a dozen students who applied for the internships,” explained Horlen. “That worked well, and in January 2006, they agreed to take up to five more; however, 11 students interviewed and they took all of them,” he continued. “Then, they said they would take another five this summer, but when 25 students interviewed, they took the whole group again.”

Of that last group of 25, about 15 are already in Beijing at this writing and the rest will join them when summer school is over.

The Chinese project, has required some special concessions from the department, explained Charles Graham, interim head of the construction science department and the Mitchell Endowed Professor of Residential Construction and Visualization. For instance, the students have to undergo security checks and because of security concerns surrounding the job, the department has had to modify its standard internship protocols, which usually include daily diary entries.

“They can’t do that on this high-security project,” said Graham. “They can e-mail things like, ‘hi mom and dad,’ or, ‘how is the department going,’ but they cannot provide any specifics about their project.”

But these inconveniences have not dampened the student interns’ enthusiasm for their jobs; and working abroad, Graham said, has proven to be a life-altering experience for most.

“Of the students who have completed internships on the project in China and elsewhere in the world, every single one of them, to the person, have said they want to pursue more international experiences.”

“The students are also finding that the construction industry is globalizing,” he added. “These opportunities in the international arena help them to see the global potential for construction services. They like learning about other cultures, other places and climates, and the history of the people they are working for. I think, almost universally, all of the students who have completed these internships have gained a great respect for other cultures.”



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Beijing, China