Xin chào! (That’s “hello” in Vietnamese!) My name is Keilani Swartzmiller. I am currently a freshman at the University of Pittsburgh majoring in industrial engineering and I intend on minoring in Chinese. As far as extracurriculars go, I am involved in the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), Pitt Excel (the diversity undergraduate program), and I am on the executive board of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) as secretary. Throughout my first year on campus, I have served as a Forbes Hall Ambassador and Freshman Chair for SHPE, and I will be a Peer Leader for the incoming class of freshman engineering students beginning this summer where I will be a TA for Pitt Excel’s summer engineering academy.
Being a part of a military family, I’m no stranger to traveling. I was born in Arkansas and have since moved nine times, although I grew up mostly in Ohio and Hawaii. I traveled the most during high school, starting in New Jersey, then moving to Germany, and graduating in Virginia. As you can imagine, living overseas provided my family with the perfect opportunity to explore Europe, and we visited 20 countries over the span of two years. During that time, I experienced how much more engaging it is to learn about a culture firsthand compared to reading about it in a textbook. From that point, I knew I wanted to continue my travels through study abroad programs in college, and now I’m starting that journey with Pitt’s Plus 3 program, where I will be traveling to Vietnam to study globalization and development.
The most prominent reasons I’m looking forward to this international experience are to expand my understanding of Asian culture, including trying as many delicious authentic Vietnamese dishes as I can, and ultimately jump starting my career. It’s important now more than ever for people to take advantage of every opportunity they can to achieve a deeper understanding of the world around them because between the internet, social media, and expanding global corporations, the world is more interconnected than it was even ten years ago.
This past semester I took a course called Great Minds of China, where I studied philosophies and religions including Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism, all of which are present in Vietnam as well. However, it’s one thing to learn from reading books in Pittsburgh and I look forward to the enriching experience seeing them firsthand will provide me.
As far as my career, I hope to work for an international consulting company, so the focus of this trip fits in flawlessly with my major. Industrial engineers develop and improve systems of people and resources, which is exactly what Vietnam has succeeded at doing over the past couple of decades. This trip will not only bring what I’ve been learning in the classroom to life but it will also prove to my potential employers that I understand the importance of international business and that it opens doors to creative solutions that derive from collaborations between the brightest individuals from all across the globe.