Oct. 21, 2013
By Staci Gasser
Ted Wagner had one unique summer.
The University of Notre Dame junior diver spent seven weeks 6,640 miles away from home on an engineering study abroad program.
Wagner attended Tsinghua University in Beijing, China, between June 30 and August 16 to work with Timken, a bearings and alloy steel manufacturing company based out of Canton, Ohio.
Timken has plants throughout China for making cylindrical roller bearings.
Five Notre Dame students and seven Tsinghua students were put in groups of four (two Chinese and two American). The students had to make a measurement device for these bearings. They designed and produced a device and gave a final presentation for the company.
"It was a great experience and I learned some amazing things," Wagner, who's majoring in mechanical engineering, said. "It taught me a lot about the process of engineering, the business process associated with it. It also taught me other aspects like working for a supervisor and how you have to communicate well with them."
Another work trait Wagner said he learned was working with people from a different culture, an aspect that is common in the field of engineering.
"Just like in any company where you might have to work with and communicate with a person who has a different culture than you or if your company has a plant in China, you have to communicate effectively," Wagner said. "That's a key skill we learned."
Learning the Chinese culture came hand-in-hand with that, and the company helped facilitate the students' eagerness to learn.
Wagner and his coworkers usually worked three hours in the morning and four hours in the afternoon, and could work a full 40 hours a week if they chose. But, if they wanted to visit someplace, they could take time off and travel.
The group experienced the Forbidden City, walked the Great Wall of China, and traveled to other cities around China.
"There's a lot to do there culturally," Wagner said.
Wagner didn't need to learn Chinese, and despite being far away from home, it was an experience he wouldn't trade for anything.
"Being so far from home was strange because at first you're out there all by yourself and don't have any help really, then after a while you get used to the lifestyle of living far away," he said. "I'd say my favorite thing was experiencing something new, being out of my comfort zone, because it's a very different world and you have to get used to it.
"It's also really cool having friends internationally. I still keep in touch with them."
Not long after getting back to the United States, Wagner had to go back to the grind of being a Notre Dame student-athlete, meaning the traveling and flexible work schedule was gone with the focus on weights, class, practice, more class, homework, studying and sleep.
The Naperville, Ill. native, has improved his timing on dives and has gotten a lot stronger since his freshman days and hopes to improve his list and make the Atlantic Coast Conference squad this season.
"The squad for ACC is small so I have to see how it pans out first," Wagner said. "Our team is very balanced. A lot of us are of equal skill level, so it's competitive even amongst the team."
Wagner finished the Notre Dame's first dual meet of the season in fifth place in the 1-meter dive with a score of 288.70 against Auburn and Michigan on Oct. 12 at the Rolfs Aquatic Center.