5 questions with… computer engineering major, study abroad student Jean Castillo

The group of students who worked on "Snowstorm." Jean Castillo is the student wearing goggles.
The group of students who worked on “Snowstorm.” Jean Castillo is the student wearing goggles.

It’s been an uncharacteristically warm fall here in Cleveland—but halfway around the world, Jean Castillo has spent months swept up in a Snowstorm.

Castillo, a fourth-year Case Western Reserve undergraduate, is studying abroad this semester at the National University of Singapore (NUS). There, he’s been an integral team member of a large-scale research project, dubbed “Snowstorm,” in which they designed an emission-free, controlled-flying experience in a constrained space.

Castillo, who is majoring in computer science and minoring in dance and artificial intelligence, is a member of the National University of Singapore’s Design Centric Programme. Every Tuesday this semester, he spent five hours working with classmates to brainstorm, develop flight-control processes and assemble the machine.

“I deeply enjoyed it, and [the experience] paid off by having a functional prototype in the end,” he said.

Jean CastilloCastillo is just one of many Case Western Reserve University students studying abroad this year. In fact, as announced earlier this week, CWRU is ranked among the top institutions whose undergraduate students study abroad. In 2013-14, nearly 45 percent of CWRU undergraduate students studied abroad, placing CWRU in a tie with Boston University for No. 20.

Over the past several days, Case Western Reserve has participated in the national celebration of International Education Week, which recognizes the importance of international education and global exchange in allowing students to experience other cultures and develop leadership skills.

“Learning a new culture can also expand your way of thinking about the rest of the world,” Castillo said. “You can become more self-aware of mindsets and cultures by traveling.”

Though this is his first study-abroad experience, Asia actually is the third continent on which he’s lived. Born in Colombia, Castillo moved to the United States when he was 8. Living in Singapore, he said, has been a very different living experience than in Colombia or the U.S.—especially the weather. Castillo notes Singapore is very humid and hot, compared to Cleveland’s changing seasons and what he remembers as Colombia’s relatively cool climate.

Plus, studying abroad has allowed him to experience activities he never thought he’d have the opportunity to do. During his time in Singapore, he’s enjoyed the food and sights and even was able to get his SCUBA diving certification. He’s also traveled to many cities across Asia, including Bangkok and Phuket, Thailand; Hanoi, Vietnam; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; and Bali, Indonesia.

Castillo heads back home in just a few weeks—but first, find out what he misses about Cleveland and CWRU in this week’s five questions.

1. What’s the one place in Cleveland that’s your must-visit for out-of-towners?

I find Coventry to be a great place to visit, as it has many kinds of shops and places to grab a meal. There is a toy store there [Big Fun] that you can spend hours in with the right people.

2. What’s the best advice you’ve ever received from a teacher?

“Plan before starting.” I find myself doing a lot more work than I need [when I] simply go into an assignment. To be honest, most of the time it works out with small projects, but when the going gets tough, not planning can be quite the pitfall.

3. What’s the one thing people would be surprised to know about you?

I like to perform music and dance. I’m actually a dance minor and can play seven instruments.

4. What famous person—past or present—would you most like to have dinner with and where would you go?

Ed Sheeran. I recently became a pretty big fan of his work and would really like to trade a few words with him to find out what inspires him to compose what he does. I would choose to go to Sixteen in New York’s own Trump Tower, as it provides an excellent view and great food.

5. What’s your favorite thing about Case Western Reserve?

They say you don’t know what you have until you lose it—and they are very right. Having been abroad, I can very much appreciate the network connectivity and print services for their reliability and upkeep. It can be very frustrating to do work while having to worry about your Internet connection.