Civil Engineering Alumni Go Far Beyond
Michael Incardona '21 and Kennedy Ezumah '17, are currently our only students to receive a Fulbright Award and Critical Language Scholarship (CLS), both sponsored by the Bureau of Educational Affairs (US Department of State). Through the CLS Program, Mr. Ezumah spent 8 weeks after spring graduation in Jaipur, India where he learned Hindi and Indian culture. Mr. Incardona is currently in Spain where he is in the middle of his year-long Fulbright program to teach English and some American culture at a local trade school. Both of our alumni have been featured by SBU separately for their successes, but we wanted to highlight Mr. Ezumah and Mr. Incardona specifically as alumni of the Civil Engineering undergraduate program and also give them an opportunity to discuss their overseas experiences more in-depth. They embody the idea that every student - no matter their career goals - should travel abroad to study, work or just experience everyday life. We are also excited to announce that both Mr. Ezumah and Mr. Incardona will participate in a special webinar scheduled for Wednesday, January 26th.
CIV Program - What made you want to go abroad? And, what made you apply for your respective programs that you went on (Mike, Fulbright and Kennedy, CLS)?
Kennedy Ezumah -I was inspired to go abroad because I wanted to make a deeper long-term commitment to a new culture and language. My previous foreign travel experiences consisted mostly of short stays (under three weeks), and time constraints made it difficult to learn and deeply engage with people and the culture. I decided to pursue the Critical Language Scholarship program because I wanted to learn a new language––something I had not been able to do with my packed academic schedule––and more specifically chose Hindi because the Indian subcontinent was a part of the world of which I was curious but knew little about. At the time I was also considering working internationally in some capacity in the international development arena, and learning Hindi, the lingua-franca of northern India, promised to open vast opportunities for me.
Michael Incardona - I've always loved traveling and wanted an opportunity to live abroad for a significant period of time. Fulbright was the perfect opportunity for me to satisfy that goal while also adding an interesting experience to my resume.
CIV - How did your experience abroad shape your future or how do you think it will shape your future? Do you think it significantly changed or will significantly change your future or make you more determined to follow the course you are planning for yourself?
KE - My experience abroad was impactful to my career trajectory. It was a safe space in which I confirmed that living and traveling internationally would be a significant part of my life. Moreover, as a foreigner living and attending school in India, I gained a deeper appreciation of the importance of having local roots and ties when addressing change. Since this experience, I have channelled this desire for flexibility and proximity to pivot into the technology industry to take advantage of technology's widespread reach to build solutions that are inclusive of all communities.
MI - I'm still in the middle of my experience abroad, but I can already see the ways that it is going to affect my future. I'm more open to exploring opportunities outside of my comfort zone and after talking with colleagues at work I've begun to more seriously consider a Master's Program in Europe at some point in the future.
CIV - If an engineering student is considering going abroad, either as an exchange student or after graduation, what do you recommend?
KE - For engineering students considering spending time abroad as an exchange student, I would give the following advice:
- First, take some time to think about your goals.
- Second, once you have identified yourwhy, start researching local opportunities and programs.
- Third, expand your research to include national and international programs, grants, and scholarships.
For engineering students considering spending time abroad after graduation, I would recommend the following:
- Consider taking some time off to travel before diving into your first job.
- Take advantage of breaks in-between jobs.
- Throughout your career, remain open to opportunities to weave in travel into your professional life.
Spending time abroad is an enriching experience that is sure to broaden your perspective and yield returns over the course of your life, no matter what professional path you choose to pursue.
Editorial Note: Kennedy submitted wonderfully thorough suggestions; read his full response here!
MI - Take a look at all your available opportunities and make a decision on the best plan forward for you. Jennifer Green* is a fantastic resource for questions about the many fellowship/scholarship opportunities available and I highly recommend reaching out to her if you have any questions.
*Editorial Note: Jennifer Green is currently the Director for Fellowships Advising and Professional Development with Stony Brook's Graduate School. Don't be shy about reaching out to her for help and ideas!
CIV - Touch a little on a cultural experience that you had that has stayed with you.
KE - One interesting experience that comes to mind is recalling how while at public places in India, people would sometimes ask me: "Where in Africa are you from?" It was amusing and I would kindly respond: "I'm Nigerian but I am actually also from the US." Technically, they were not wrong, as I am equal parts Nigerian and American. However, behind that question lay an innocent misconception about the cultural composition of the United States. It dawned on me that between media depictions and the few actual African Americans who had traveled there before, people had developed the impression that the United States is more culturally and ethnically homogenous than it is. This experience taught me just how important it is to expand access to more Americans from underrepresented background to travel abroad, so that a more realistic representation of our diverse country can be shared with others.
MI - In early November my school celebrated a local holiday called Magosto. It's a festival to welcome the coming of winter and is traditionally celebrated by people in the northern region of Galicia. During this festival it is very common for communities to create large bonfires and roast chestnuts together. My school invited me to their celebration one Friday evening and I spent the rest of the day with my students and colleagues listening to local music and eating roasted chestnuts from makeshift bonfire pits. It was an amazing opportunity to connect with my school community and the culture of the region.
CIV - Anything else you'd like to share?
MI - Take the plunge and go abroad! It's not as common for engineering students to participate in many of these programs and it can give your application a competitive edge!
CIV Program - We'd like to thank both Mr. Ezumah and Mr. Incardona for sharing their thoughts and experiences with us. Please be sure to join us on January 26, 2022 to meet them and hear more. For further reading, check out SBU's stories: Kennedy Ezumah, Michael Incaronda
In 2017, Kennedy was awarded the State Department’s Critical Language Scholarship (CLS), and following his graduation, embarked on a summer-long Hindi language immersion experience in India. In the fall of that year, Kennedy began working at Skanska as a civil engineer, and over the course of three years, contributed to numerous public infrastructure projects across New York and Massachusetts.
In 2021, Kennedy’s interest in building and doing meaningful work large-scale, led him to pivot into the technology industry. He is currently pursuing an MS in Computer Science at Northeastern University, Bay Area. Kennedy enjoys traveling, researching Igbo history, and storytelling.
In his freshman year, Michael joined an organization on campus called Students Helping Honduras (SHH), a nonprofit dedicated to relieving extreme poverty by constructing schools in rural Honduras. Over the next few years, he would continually travel to Honduras and take on additional leadership roles within the organization. By senior year he had become a Student Director for SHH, where he directly oversaw 30 college chapters across the United States.
Alongside his involvement with SHH, Michael continued expanding upon his interest in international service by interning with organizations such as the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Doctors Without Borders (MSF).
After graduation, Michael was awarded a Fulbright ETA Grant to teach English in Spain for the 2021-2022 academic year. He is currently based in the city of A Coruña.