Buckeyes go global for spring break

Posted: March 31, 2017

Spring break offers busy college students time for relaxation and a break from the classroom. For some, it’s also a chance to pursue global adventures and enjoy an immersive learning experience like no other.

Four Buckeyes pose with the Taj Mahal in the background
Maggie Brill (far right) and fellow Buckeyes visited the Taj Mahal and other historical sites during a service-learning trip to northern India.

The College of Engineering offered six education abroad programs during spring break 2017, sending Buckeyes to three different continents where they acquired valuable knowledge and undertook opportunities to make a difference.

The programs included service-learning trips to Honduras to assist an orphanage with technological advances and electrical improvements, and India, where students learned about the culture through trips to historical sites and volunteering at an organization that works to empower impoverished women through training and sustainable solutions.

Eager to travel abroad, second-year electrical engineering major Monica Brill jumped at the chance to participate in the service-learning trip to India. The experience gave her a firsthand look at what life is like 7,500 miles from campus.

“I had such an amazing time,” said Brill. “I was able to learn so much more about their culture, religion and food that I would never have understood without going to India.”

This year a new education abroad opportunity was added to the roster, sending 13 Buckeyes—including five who had never been abroad before—on a 10-day excursion across northern Italy to study the exceptional modern architecture, urban design and landscapes along the way.

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Students visited the Milan Cathedral during a 10-day trip to northern Italy led by Architecture Professor Kay Bea Jones.

As part of a traveling architecture studio the students drew their way through four cities: Milan, Ivrea, Genoa and Vigevano.

Kay Bea Jones, professor of architecture and director of the trip, led eight architecture students and five others who were eager to explore Italy and learn about architecture along the way.

“It’s so interesting to mix design students and non-design students and then to have the huge honor to get to go with students who have never been there before,” said Jones. “What they do on this trip is draw, it slows them down. You sit still long enough to absorb information and things happen when you’re sitting still. They start to see with a new set of eyes.”

The trip allowed Jones and the students to gather information about Ivrea, the subject of her research. The town was home to the Olivetti Company that produced typewriters throughout the 20th century, commissioning some of Italy’s best modern architects.

“Adriano Olivetti valued design and the physical environment. He invested in his workers’ well-being, great workspaces and public places,” said Jones. “It’s an anomaly where many architects from all over the country built great homes, factories and office buildings in this small village.”

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Sketch of the Piazza della Nunziata 4 in Genova, Italy by architecture major Wenzhao (Dao Dao) Zhang.
Jones is currently teaching a vertical studio rooted in Ivrea, challenging students to engage in adaptive reuse. Students are learning the best way to reimagine existing buildings and factories, a growing idea in the field of architecture.

Aleah Westfall, a third-year architecture major, is currently enrolled in Jones’ design studio course and used the trip as an opportunity to visit Ivrea in person. The trip allowed her to see the buildings firsthand and explore ways to restructure them so they can be used to their full potential.

“This study abroad trip has helped me in moving forward with the rehab of this old factory town in our studio projects,” said Westfall. “The culture I experienced in Ivrea will help me to implement the community ideas into this rehabilitation project.”

Aside from gaining valuable insight into the research project, students encountered other architectural wonders from big cities like Milan and Genoa to small fishing villages along the Mediterranean Sea.

In addition to the service learning trips and exploring Italy, other students also used foreign lands as a backdrop for education during short but impactful spring break learning experiences.

Some students traveled just a short distance from American soil, exploring the development of modern architecture with the interaction of politics, climate and society in Cuba. Another program immersed students in the culture, urban, landscape and architectural environment of Chile.

The City and Regional Planning program offered students an opportunity to travel around Taiwan, learning from Taiwanese experts about the transit systems in various cities and towns. Students studied one of the safest, cleanest most reliable subway systems in the world, Taipei City’s Mass Rapid Transit System, as well as other transportation solutions.

Studying abroad is a valuable way for students and professors to learn together, while experiencing other cultures.

“Getting to see the physical environment from firsthand experience, the buildings that they’ve been studying, that is something you can’t get from Google Earth or reading about it, you can’t get that through slides,” said Jones. “And when you get to teach that way the payback is enormous.”

by Emily Lehmkuhl, College of Engineering student communications assistant

Categories: CollegeStudents