Editor’s note: William Escoe, now a senior civil engineering major, completed a ten-week internship in Iraq with an upstream oil company. He spent ten weeks in the city of Erbil, which is the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan. William tells about his experience in his own words.
This particular summer was a very interesting time to be in the Middle East, especially in Northern Iraq. Erbil is known to be a safe city, and I can personally attest to that. I was kindly welcomed by the Kurdish and made many great relationships with the people there. In June 2014, ISIS took control of the city of Mosul, which was the next city over from us; a little over an hour away. I worked with several people from Mosul and surrounding areas, so I was able to hear their stories and hear about how their families were affected during that time. Some of the people that I worked with and their families were forced out of their homes because of their religious beliefs. I would hear their stories at work the morning after being forced to leave their homes. This was something that I was technically not prepared for and had no prior “training” that I could fall back on to help me.
During this internship, I was fortunate enough to spend time with both the drilling and production departments and learn about petroleum exploration. Most of my time was spent with production doing construction management. This involved working closely with contractors and making sure all of the civil engineering work was being done properly and on time. I also did some design work with reinforced concrete for the production facilities. I enjoyed this aspect of my internship because I was able to give my design to the contractors and oversee the implementation of it in the field. My last two weeks there, my mentor went on his two-week leave and I was essentially left in charge of all the civil engineering projects we were constructing. This was a special experience for me because I was left alone to work on projects that I technically did not know how to manage with people that did not speak English. I had a translator, of course, but it still made things interesting and difficult. I say these last two weeks were special because I saw personal growth from an engineering and professional aspect. I was able to make decisions that could have actual consequences, which is something that cannot be experienced or taught in a classroom.
Although I was not technically prepared and did not have the training for many of the situations that I was put in, I felt confident in approaching them and trusted myself to do what I needed to do. I had this sense of confidence because of my experiences at Clemson University, particularly with Clemson Engineers for Developing Countries (CEDC). In CEDC, we work in the central plateau of Haiti to develop sustainable solutions to improve the overall quality of life there. In this student organization, most of us work on projects ranging from economic development to engineering projects like improving the Haitian infrastructure by improving the quality of concrete blocks. I had the amazing opportunity to go to Haiti with CEDC during the Spring Break trip before my internship, which WAS great preparation for my internship that summer. I learned about and worked on some of the projects that CEDC was working as well as experiencing the Haitian culture. By working with fellow classmates and Haitians on these projects, I learned a great deal about communication, patience, work ethic, and responsibility. These are all things that are not necessarily taught in a conventional classroom, but rather in a real-world setting. I am extremely thankful for my experiences at Clemson University and with CEDC because it has given me a strong foundation that I will be able to build on for the rest of my life and career.