Sophomore computer science major Iris Gau spent the summer in Poland, working as a programmer for Katalyst Education, a non-profit specializing in digital tools for education. Katalyst provides free resources to K-12 students in Poland and is branching out to provide those same services for university students.
Gau worked on the development team for one of Katalystâ€™s main projects, the internationalization of OpenStax, the open textbook platform initiative which was started and is based at Rice. The project, called CNX/OPENSTAX, publishes free, high-quality university textbooks, helping to reduce higher education costs.
â€śThe purpose of Katalystâ€™s project is to provide students with easily accessible but quality online textbooks,â€ť she said. â€śThe platform is currently only available in English, so I worked to modify the code base to be compatible with new locales.â€ť
Gau said the experience was challenging, and helped her grow as an engineer.
â€śThe internship was quite unrelated to any work I've done before in classes, because I was using different programming languages and had different objectives,â€ť she said. â€śHowever, soft skills were necessary and in part from my time at Rice, I have had much experience working on teams.â€ť
Gau also learned how Katalystâ€™s business is run. She met with managers and learned about how the companyâ€™s business plan was constructed. While sheâ€™s not sure what she wants to do for a career, she said she is interested in both education and computer programming.
â€śThis internship was the perfect intersection of both,â€ť she said.
In her free time, Gau visited other cities including KrakĂłw, GdaĹ„sk, Budapest and Prague. Although she didnâ€™t speak Polish, everyone in the Warsaw office spoke English. She said they made it a priority to speak English when she was present, even if she wasnâ€™t part of the conversation, so she would feel included.
â€śAnd my Polish friends and co-workers were also eager to teach me their culture and language, so I did pick up some basic Polish phrases.â€ť
Gau found her internship through the Center for Career Developmentâ€™s RiceLink site. She said her favorite part of spending the summer in Poland was immersing herself in the countryâ€™s culture, especially in Warsaw, where she was based, and being part of the Katalyst workforce.
â€śThere are so many opportunities posted with the CCD site,â€ť she said. â€śI really encourage other students to check the site, use filters to find what theyâ€™re interested in, and do research on companies that look like a good fit.â€ť