By: Maygan Beckers
Last summer when she was flying over Germany, it looked as if the view was from a movie. It was nothing like what the United States looked like from an airplane’s view. Everything matched.
Although the view was picture perfect, tears rolled down the face of Cortney Fuerch, a UO art history student, who landed and then ran through customs at Frankfurt, Germany’s airport. Fuerch had missed her flight from Frankfurt, Germany to Rome, Italy, where she was supposed to meet and ride with UO senior Katarina Berger to their final destination, the UO School of Architecture and Allied Arts’ study abroad program in Rome, Italy.
Despite not knowing German, she pulled herself together and got on the next flight to Rome. Not knowing how to speak Italian, Fuerch learned the skills of how to maneuver as a student abroad very quickly.
The UO architecture and allied art (AAA) study abroad program’s benefits shine through students’ experiences in their field. UO AAA students study abroad in places ranging from Vancouver, British Columbia to Beijing, China.
The AAA UO program, like many other programs across the nation, serves as both as an expansion and interruption of the program of study at the university. However, students say it’s worth it no matter what because they’re learning material first-hand.
Kaysie Rozsonits, a UO architecture student who is currently abroad in Italy, says it’s one thing to study architecture in classes and a completely different thing to actually experience the buildings for herself.
“I think the AAA program would suffer if these programs weren’t available,” Rozsonits says. “I’ve learned so much here that I would never take in had I not come on this trip.”
Rozsonits says studying abroad with the architecture school has been a great experience.
In her first two weeks, she spent every day visiting monuments and buildings by famous architects including the Colosseum, Trajan’s market, Saint Peter’s Basilica, and the Maxxi Museum -sketching absolutely everything.
“Now that we’re in Vicenza, things have slowed down. We spend hours in studio and most of our free time working on our studio projects,” Rozsonits says.
The benefits that Rozsonits says she’s getting include experiencing the architecture first-hand and being around Italians, while picking up the culture and language. She also enjoys being forced to learn how to sketch in the field. She says that she didn’t think she could sketch every day, but now she says she is very used to the process and calls it easy.
“I would say that this is the most involved study abroad program I’ve ever heard about,” Rozsonits says. “We get to be tourists, students, and inhabitants.”
Rozsonits says between all of the places she gets to visit and the amount of work she is required to do, she thinks she gets as much as possible out of her time there.
Katarina Berger, a UO art history student studying abroad in Rome the summer of 2011, had an assignment to look at the structure of villas in Rome, Italy and create one of her own by infusing her design with [certain] aspects that she learned through seeing them in her “City of Rome” class where students explore the city.
Berger says she created a very structured Italian garden that had a whole love story of cupid.
She says her whole garden’s theme was romance. She believes that Italy is very romantic and says that a lot of the villas have frescoes of Greek and Roman mythology. Frescoes are mural type paintings that are plastered on walls.
Berger’s fountain centerpiece for her assignment was a heart to represent love. She chose to have roses in her garden which extended out to an English garden. She says English gardens are more overgrown and less structured than Italian gardens, but the influence of Italian gardens remained in her memory anyway.
“Italian gardens are very pristine and geometric,” Berger says.
In Vicenza, she says she toured four [incredible] villas by Palladio – she calls them “incredible” in her blog – and spent a day in Venice. On her way back to Rome, she stopped in Tuscany where she viewed the Medici Villa and the Villa Gamboraia. Berger says in another blog post that there were panoramic views of Florence during this experience.
Berger said in her blog that when she was visiting Villa Gamberaia, the thing she loved the most was “lying on the cool, shaded grass staring up at the sun that lightly seeped through the tree branches.”
“There was nothing but the sound of birds and a soft breeze in the air,” Berger says as she continues to write in her blog. “It was one of the most relaxing things I had done in a while, just feeling the cool grass on my legs and it being an escape from the scorching Tuscan heat.”
Berger says the UO AAA students took weekend excursions with the group as a whole where they traveled to places like Venice and Tuscany to view the architecture of villas created by architects such as Andrea Palladio.
Michelle Vander Heyden, UO senior and architecture student, says her study abroad experience in the summer of 2011 in Rome refreshed her. She says that being in Eugene and having the studios set up the way they are, feels like “the same thing over and over again.”
Vander Heyden says that, “It was nice to just get inspired again. I think the biggest thing was to sketch and do hand drawing.” The biggest benefit for Vander Heyden in her experience studying abroad was hand drawing and relying on herself to do the work.
Although Vander Heyden wasn’t relying on computers, Philip Speranza, UO assistant professor in architecture, has decided to bring computers as a resource into a new UO study abroad program.
Speranza brought the study abroad Life City Adaptation Barcelona Urban Design Program from the New Jersey Institute of Technology to the University of Oregon. UO will offer this five-week program this summer in Barcelona, Spain.
By completing this program, students receive urban design media credit.
The first three weeks of the program are focused on drawing, diagraming and understanding context and place by exploring media methods and urban design. The next two weeks are based off of realistic design problems, in which students will come up with solutions.
Speranza says if the architecture school only offers eight week programs, they’re those programs that end up competing against each other.
“By pulling students out of their normal context of their environment and bringing them into a new one, it makes it more accessible to understand how the architecture responds to where it’s being built,” he says.
This program is particularly for architecture and urban design students. Speranza says he wants them to be able to study a different culture, learn those lessons and to come back bringing that perspective back to the States.
Speranza says his goal is that students will come back with a different perspective toward urbanism and social condition and how they take the skills they learned and bring that back to wherever they go in their future.
“Barcelona is known as a good laboratory for urban design,” Speranza says. “The city spaces can have an effect on how people interact. I think without this program, the students don’t have an experience to that whole culture of Iberian Peninsula.”
Student will use contemporary media design tools in this program, which Speranza says is unique from other AAA UO study abroad programs.
“Giving the students an experience to use those tools is critical,” he says. “When they graduate, they’re not only using the tools passively but they understand what the implications are of the media on design and systems thinking”
Speranza says the most exciting part of the program is that they’ll be working with the city of Barcelona.
Barcelona is trying to keep certain buildings in specific neighborhoods in their city and trying to come up with places to put schools, playgrounds and stores to run a community.
The goal of Barcelona is to have every block have an identified history. Once the historic buildings are identified and protected, they start thinking about where the commercial and residential space will go.
At the end of the program, Speranza plans to take the students to the city to present their ideas to them. He says that in previous years the city of Barcelona have been very interested in some designs.
He says the city of Barcelona hasn’t thought of the implications very hard. Their going bankrupt, so the city of Barcelona doesn’t have the resources and their planning staff has slimmed down. Speranza believes that the planning staff who are left have found his past students work useful from the New Jersey Institute of Technology.
By students being able to be a part of such a process, this new program highlights some of the experiences that students cannot gain elsewhere. For some students, it is required that they get a study abroad experience. Architecture students at KU must study abroad in order to receive a Master’s degree at the university.
Students in the UO AAA study abroad programs say the programs are beneficial at the UO, but they also seem to work in the middle of the United States. Kansas University offers 20 programs for architecture and art history students.
KU has approximately 67 architecture students who study abroad per year in cities ranging from Paris to Barcelona. KU offers some of the same locations to study as UO, such as Beijing, China, and various cities in Italy.
Robert Lopez, KU’s outreach coordinator since 2008, says he would make it a requirement for every student at KU to study abroad if he had the power.
Without this program being available, Lopez thinks students would be missing out on an international experience, which he says really helps develop their resume and opens their understanding to different types of architecture out of the U.S.
Lopez says there’s no better way than studying abroad to learn another language, develop intercultural communication skills and gain knowledge of global current events.
“Building those skills will only help in academics when returning to the U.S. because we’ve seen students who excel when they return,” Lopez says. “It will only help their chances in the job market.”
While Lopez says students will potentially have a better chance of getting a job offer, Berger agrees.
Berger says that studying abroad has definitely helped her understanding of renaissance and baroque art and architecture. In terms of the job market, she says that if she has a good understanding of art history, she will have a better chance in art history related jobs.
Students who study abroad learn both from their successes, but also from their mistakes.
From the quick lessons that Fuerch learned from missing her flight, she was finally able to have a sense of relief when she saw her professor’s face. Seeing a simple face made her have an unforgettable and hands-on experience allowing her to fully immerse in the culture during her time abroad.
UO offers study abroad programs for architecture and allied arts students at these locations:
-Vancouver, British Columbia
-New York City, USA
-Khon Kaen, Thailand
-University of Tampere, Finland
-Uppsala University, Sweden
-The Netherlands, Germany