Mary V.

Major/Minor

BS in Aerospace Engineering; Minors in Astrophysics and Computer Science
Completed Interactive Qualifying Project (IQP) at the Tirana, Albania Project Center.
An IQP is often called life-changing by WPI students, requiring teams to delve into a problem that matters to real people.
Project

Mary traveled to the Albania Project Center with 23 other students to complete her IQP. Her project, which she collaborated on with three students from different majors, involved the production of a documentary about the Drin River in Albania, with the intent to raise awareness about the pollution problems it faces. The students approached the project through research, interviews with stakeholders, and collaboration with their sponsor, Water Supply and Sewerage Association of Albania (SHUKALB). The project culminated with the students collecting footage, editing it into a documentary, and adjusting the process based on feedback from viewers.

Reflection

Having never left North America before, Mary had the opportunity to experience and immerse herself in another culture firsthand through her IQP. Every day felt like an opportunity to experience something new, whether it be exploring a new section of the city, traveling to Albania’s rural and mountainous regions, or simply trying a new type of cuisine.

For Mary, the most valuable aspect of the IQP experience was working in a professional environment in a different part of the world. Not only did she gain the knowledge of how to work efficiently with a team on a long-term project, she also developed interpersonal skills through communicating with professionals from multiple countries and backgrounds, all of which she could never have experienced in a classroom.

Photo of Mary
Hometown

Albany, NY

Major/Minor

BS in Aerospace Engineering; Minors in Astrophysics and Computer Science

Achievements
  • Managing the schedule and workload associated with a major and two minors, and maintaining Dean’s List throughout.
  • Making new friends from all over the world through involvement in several co-curricular activities.
Aspirations
  • Get an engineering position with a prominent company in the aerospace industry.
  • Aspire to become an astronaut and travel to space.

Typical Work Week Schedule

8:45 AM

Wake up and get ready for work.

9:15 AM

Walk with my team to our sponsor’s office, usually stopping for pastries on the way.

9:30 AM

Arrive at our office and assess what needs to be worked on for the day. Delegate who will work on what tasks.

12:30 PM

Head out to lunch, choosing a different restaurant in the Blloku—one of the most famous and popular areas of Tirana—each day.

2:00 PM

Return to the office and continue working on assignments from the morning.

3:00 PM

Check in with our sponsor (at least once a day, but not always at 3PM); review our progress and get feedback.

5:00 PM

Leave the office and travel back to our apartments.

5:30 PM

Free time; sometimes we went out to the store or markets before dinner.

6:30 PM

Go out with a group to a restaurant for dinner, either going down the street or walking to a different section of the city.

8:00 PM

Return to the apartments and watch a movie or play cards with my roommates and other students.

10:00 PM

Occasionally go out for gelato or crepes.

12:00 AM

Go to bed.

Typical Weekend Schedule

6:00 AM

Wake up early to get on a bus and travel to another city or site in Albania (we usually traveled outside of Tirana on weekends).

9:00 AM

Approximate arrival at destination, usually some sort of scenic attraction (i.e. Albanian Alps, Pellumbas Cave, Osumi Canyon, Drin River).

9:30 AM

Partake in tourist activities (hiking, swimming, boat rides, castle tours, etc.).

3:00 PM

Stop for lunch in a nearby city or town before travelling back to Tirana. If staying overnight and not traveling back to Tirana, we would stop for lunch at a café during our activity.

6:00 PM

Go to dinner either once back in Tirana, or at a restaurant or inn nearby if staying overnight.

8:00 PM

Participate in cultural activities with local Albanians (i.e. traditional dances, attending the opera).

10:00 PM

Go to bed.

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 Overlooking the city of Berat from the Berat Castle—a major attraction among tourists in Albania
Overlooking the city of Berat from the Berat Castle—a major attraction among tourists in Albania

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Along the edge of the Osumi Canyon on a weekend excursion to the south-central region of Albania
Along the edge of the Osumi Canyon on a weekend excursion to the south-central region of Albania

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Group photo while in the beautiful mountain region of Valbona in northern Albania during a weekend expedition away from the city
Group photo while in the beautiful mountain region of Valbona in northern Albania during a weekend expedition away from the city

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A weekend visit to the Berat Castle—a fortress overlooking the town of Berat in south-central Albania
A weekend visit to the Berat Castle—a fortress overlooking the town of Berat in south-central Albania

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Enjoying an evening of Albanian music and dancing at the Castle Park Hotel while on an outing to Berat
Enjoying an evening of Albanian music and dancing at the Castle Park Hotel while on an outing to Berat

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Enjoying a hike in the mountain region of Valbona in northern Albania
Enjoying a hike in the mountain region of Valbona in northern Albania

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ExpoCity convention center where the Balkans Joint Conference was held at which the team’s documentary trailer was featured
ExpoCity convention center where the Balkans Joint Conference was held at which the team’s documentary trailer was featured

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Team photo at the Balkans Joint Conference—an annual event drawing participants from the Balkans water sector
Team photo at the Balkans Joint Conference—an annual event drawing participants from the Balkans water sector

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Team interviewing stakeholders to gather information and raise awareness of their project at the Balkans Joint Conference
Team interviewing stakeholders to gather information and raise awareness of their project at the Balkans Joint Conference

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Team meeting with stakeholders in the SHUKALB conference booth—their project sponsor
Team meeting with stakeholders in the SHUKALB conference booth—their project sponsor

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Enjoying a trip to the Berat Castle on a weekend excursion three hours out of the capital city of Tirana
Enjoying a trip to the Berat Castle on a weekend excursion three hours out of the capital city of Tirana
It was the IQP that finalized my decision to attend WPI. The project sounded like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and learning experience that I wouldn’t find at any other university, and having now gone to Albania, I feel reassured about that decision.