Jeff Eker has a grasp on what it means to be aware of the world around you. The senior electrical and computer engineering student has visited Australia, Sri Lanka and Shanghai this past summer alone.
Eker, 21, believes that the most important thing for young people to remember when traveling is to recognize and promote international perspective and understanding. His emphasis on objectivity when learning about the world started with an essay he wrote in high school.
“We were assigned to write an essay on one word, a definition essay,” Eker said. “I thought, well how am I going to write an entire essay on just one word?”
Eker asked friends and family what word held enough meaning to devote an entire paper to. In return, he got many responses. But a Skype chat with a friend from Germany, who was just learning English, started his path towards gaining insight into the world.
“All she said was, ‘miracle,’” Eker said. “It means all of the small things around us that we lose in our hectic society that we don’t necessarily appreciate. All I had to do was take a step out of the hectic society that we live in, and see it as someone looking into the fishbowl, trying to learn about it, trying to understand what was truly valuable all around me.”
That moment shaped many of his life and his career ambitions. Wanting to spread the knowledge of international perspective, he felt he had a responsibility to make it happen.
In January of 2014, Eker studied abroad in Germany. He lived with a host family while taking an advanced German language course and visiting industrial locations.
“This gave me extremely valuable perspective,” Eker said.
While there, Eker had an opportunity to talk with an Australian student who was also part of an organization that Eker headed a chapter of back home. The organization, known as the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), is the largest professional society in the world. It is split into 10 regions across the world and Eker is the region two student representative. He represents 80 universities and 10,000 students.
Eker sat down with the Australian student to discuss how they could take the value of the experiences they had in Germany, and bring it back to their respective student IEEE branches.
“Traveling internationally is very expensive, but the value you get out of it is so huge,” Eker said. “But not everybody can do it. So what we did was create an international partnership between the IEEE student branches at Rowan University and James Cook University in Australia.”
The partnership between the two schools fostered joint projects that allowed its members to interact with others on an international level and provided international perspective. Through one of the group’s robot competitions, $30,000 were raised to send 10 students back to Australia.
“Jeff’s eloquence is his most valuable asset,” Eker’s friend from Germany, Angie Hom said. “It is his ability to convince others about his ideas and his point of views that is impressive. He is able to inspire people. And he is able to change people’s minds.”
Eker’s role in IEEE led to many travel opportunities. While in Australia over the summer, he was given a grant to travel to Sri Lanka to attend a conference at the IEEE’s region 10. Region 10 encompasses over 100 countries in the Asia-Pacific region, including Japan, India, Afghanistan and South Korea.
The conference was held by region 10’s Student and Young Professional Women in Engineering Congress. Eker was sent to this congress to study and learn from the group, as well as help mentor them as they expand.
“In the short time that I have known [Jeff], the amount that I have seen him progress in the fields that he feels really strongly about is hard to express,” said Jasleen Kaur, whom Eker met during his time in Sri Lanka. “His extremely friendly demeanor is what makes him stand out in a crowd.”
Because of an internship Eker had at Rockwell Automations in Boston, he was also able to travel to Singapore to present a lecture on life sciences and easing the assimilation between emerging markets.
“It was challenging, I met with all of these senior people and had information shoved down my throat, it was extremely stressful,” Eker said.
Eker’s round-trip, from the United States to Sri Lanka to Singapore and back, took just eight days.
“Forget 80 days,” Eker said. “I did it in eight!”
Eker’s most recent project is his smartphone app “Culture Cloud.” It is a geo-based smart travel application, that allows users to connect with each other based on their interests. A user’s profile will display the languages they speak, their interests, their home country and the places they have traveled in the world. Eker considers the app a combination of the immediate companionship provided by the dating app, Tinder and the travel service, Trip Advisor.
Users can search for people in the area they are in based on specific criteria and find new friends wherever they are in the world.
“All of my work ties back to my drive to spread international perspective,” Eker said. “My passion has always been to spread this across the world, and to give anybody the ability to connect. This will give everybody the power of international perspective.”
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