Ever thought about studying abroad?

Virginia Tech Study Abroad – Jamie Hissey

If a university  education is not only to achieve a qualification but to broaden your life  experience then an opportunity to study abroad must be one of the best ways of  helping to attain both of these goals. Having been a loyal architecture student  at the University of Kent for both undergraduate and postgraduate, I wanted the  opportunity to experience new teaching styles that would help me build on the  solid educational foundation that Kent had already provided. When I heard about  the possibility of studying abroad at the Washington Alexandria Architecture  School (WAAC), Virginia Tech, I jumped at this opportunity. I submitted my  portfolio to the department and was fortunate enough to be selected to  represent Kent at the Virginia Tech Architecture School. I was also successful  in gaining a Study Abroad Scholarship from Santander.

On arriving in  Washington DC I was welcomed into the school with open arms. Since 1985, the WAAC has served to house a consortium of architecture  schools from all over the globe. Currently, 13 universities are part of the  consortium. This structure provides exposure to a diverse student and faculty  perspectives and promotes and encourages a unique design dialogue. Once I had enrolled, I was met with  many other students from all corners of the world under one roof. This  was an amazing chance to live and work with other students from all  across the world and learn from their experiences, design methods and teaching.

Virginia Tech’s classes are chosen on a credit system with further  opportunities to audit other classes that interest you. With the variety of  classes taught at the school I chose to study ‘The Theory of Urban Form’ and  ‘Advanced Computer Aided Design’ alongside my thesis project entitled ‘The  Embassy for Tea; A Didactic Landscape’. This final year project was started at  the WAAC with the aim of returning to Kent to further develop the proposal  using a combination of skills acquired both at Virginia Tech and Kent. I  selected 3 tutors to serve as my committee members who each specialised in  different fields of Architecture to tutor me throughout the term. The newly refurbished  studio space and individual work station further encouraged me to make full use  of my tutors and time at the school.

The university  accommodation was a complex of apartments in a converted church that made it  easy to meet new people and socialise. During the time abroad I had the  opportunity to visit many of the architecturally significant cities on the east  coast including New York, Philadelphia, and of course Washington DC. As a school  we also had the amazing opportunity to visit Frank Lloyd Wrights ‘Falling  Water’ and ‘Kentuck Knob’ in Virginia. Other highlights for me included playing  a season of rugby for Washington DC, experiencing a real American family  thanksgiving and making a number of friends for life.

I really feel as  though my time studying aboard has greatly benefited me as an architecture  student. Being granted the opportunity to study abroad for the first term but  return to Kent for the remainder of the year has enabled me, with the help of  my tutors, to take what skills I gained at the WAAC, refine and combine them  within the Kent program which will hopefully mould me into a better architect.

To find out how you could study abroad, please visit the university GoAbroad site.