How my study abroad experience has helped me in the workforce
I never quite knew what made the rest of the world different from the U.S. Coming from the small community of Sutherlin, Virginia, and having limited opportunity to travel, I was oblivious to anything outside of the country. When I found out about the opportunity to join around 40 other students on a trip across Europe to study architecture from the other side of the world, I figured I would give it a shot. On August 14, 2019 I left the country for the first time for what turned out to be the best three months of my life. In total, our group was able to visit nine countries and 47 cities in just 78 days. I stood atop the Alps, tried escargot in Paris, ate the most amazing pizza in Italy, and attended my first professional soccer game in Munich. I had, without a doubt, the experience of a lifetime. But aside from all the fun, this trip allowed me to grow exponentially as an architecture student.
Experiencing Architecture in a New Way
Whether it was walking for miles through the streets, bussing for hours from city to city, or taking my time to sketch an interesting detail on the façade of a building, there was always something new in store for me as the trip went on. For eight hours a day, seven days a week, my responsibility was to observe and understand building form, building configurations, urban context, construction, and so on. Never had I imagined how different architecture could be. Being able to see buildings like The Guggenheim by Frank Gehry, a building with unorthodox forms which propelled the development of the riverfront in the city of Bilbao, Spain, was truly remarkable. We travelled to La Tourette, a monastery designed by the famous Le Corbusier, where we were able to understand what it’s like to live in silence and contemplation all while being able to study the iconic Corbusier design. In Copenhagen, I had the luxury of meeting one of my favorite architects, Bjarke Ingles, at the unveiling of one of his newest projects: a waste-to-energy power plant that features an actual ski slope on the roof of the building. How cool is that?
Taking My Knowledge Back to the Workplace
Of course, I’ll miss roaming around the cities of Europe, but after a while, the erratic lifestyle begins to become overwhelming. I’m glad to be back home where I can implement my newfound knowledge and skills. Working as an architecture intern in Dewberry’s Danville, Virginia, office has helped me expand on the knowledge I gained while abroad. The skills and lessons I learned during my time in Europe have been transferrable to the projects I work on in the office, and my experiences have helped me better serve our clients by bringing a different perspective to projects than I was able to before.
The semester has helped me improve my vision, my drawing techniques, and even my photography. In all, being abroad has benefited me in such a way I never thought possible. Hopefully one day I will get an opportunity to return.