Hi, my name is Henry. I spent last summer doing a co-op with Carlo Gavazzi Space, Spa in Milan, Italy. I chose to participate in an international engineering co-op because the Italian language and culture has always interested me. I lived in Daniel's Palace, an international housing complex, at a university in Milan with students from around the world. The people I met there were great and we would often hang out together after work.
There were many activities to do in and around Milan. The World Cup was broadcast on giant-screened TVs in the Piazzo Duomo (a large plaza in Milan) so I got to celebrate with the Italians when they won. On the weekends, I often traveled to other cities in Italy and visited family still living there. Also, as a non-Italian student, I was given an Erasmus card which hosts events for foreign students. There was always free food and activities sponsored by Erasmus.
Working with Carlo Gavazzi Space, Spa (CGS) was an invaluable experience. They are a leading aerospace company in Europe and have been awarded the role of Prime Contractor from space authorities such as ESA (European Space Agency), ASI (Italian Space Agency), and NASA. I worked on a project call SOAR (Station Off Axis Rotator) in which I helped develop and test a small-scale prototype that may ultimately end up on the International Space Station. The purpose of SOAR is to rotate an individual at a certain velocity so he/she feels a particular acceleration (mimicking the effects of space). My daily tasks included: running simulations, analyzing results, calibrating hardware measurement tools, and modifying hardware.
CGS is a mid-sized company so I received a lot of one-on-one time with my mentor, who happened to be a young engineer himself. It was a very close-knit community which made me an integral part of the team. All employees of CGS are required to speak English well, but they were willing to help me practice my Italian by speaking it to me (outside the workplace, however, I had to speak Italian to communicate with other people). I definitely recommend this experience for anyone who is looking for an internship which places you above the competition.