Florian Baertsch, from Winterthur, Switzerland, recently became the first European student to complete an international, double master’s degree with Washington State University and the Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW).

The program is designed to graduate globally educated professionals to assume leadership positions in technology-driven, multinational corporations. We caught up with Florian and asked him about his thoughts about the program and his time at WSU.

Q.

Congrats, Florian. Tell us a little bit about your degree.

Florian: I recently finished a master’s degree in mechanical engineering through the International Double Master degree program, with the first year spent at the Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW) in Switzerland and the second year at WSU Tri-cities. My research area was structural engineering.

Andrew Porter, Joseph Iannelli, and Florian Baertsch standing in front of the entrance to ZHAW.
Baertsch at the Zurich University of Applied Sciences, with his WSU cohort student partner Andrew Porter and Joseph Iannelli, Voiland College’s associate dean for international programs.
Q.

What made you want to do the double master’s program?

Florian: I wanted to experience a different academic environment and gain some international exposure, which can be very useful in any engineering field.

Q.

The program involves one year of study in Switzerland, and the other in the U.S. How would you compare the two experiences?

Florian: It’s amazing to see how differently classes are taught. In Switzerland, the focus is on direct application of technical concepts. So it’s focused on practical, hands-on type learning. In the US, I liked that professors also went deep into the theory of every topic, giving me a solid foundation in the fundamentals of complex areas.

Q.

What were the advantages of doing an international double master’s degree program?

Florian: It was super advantageous in terms of experiencing other styles of teaching and research. I was able to peer into a different research culture, which is valuable in scientific work.

Q.

What things did you learn and like during your time here, other than academics?

Florian: I learned to organize myself better in order to deal with the load of graduate school. I must say my communication skills have improved a lot because of the collaborative style of working and studying that I’ve had to adopt here in the USA.

I really liked how much enthusiasm my professors here at WSU brought to each class. They don’t just try to teach you a topic, they try to spark passion in you for whatever you’re learning.

Traveling is incredible in this country because of the immense diversity of landscapes, climate and people. After I defended my thesis in May this year, me and my dad rented two motorcycles and rode Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles.

Previously I considered myself a city-person, but traveling around the U.S. has showed me the thrill and joy of being in nature.

Q.

What’s next for you?

Florian: I’ve been hired as a research associate at the Institute for Mechanical Systems with a nine-month contract to do research in the area of structural engineering. Hopefully by the end of my research I’ll have a better idea of what I want to do, whether it is going into industry or doing a Ph.D.