MArch Student Profile – Virginia Tech Study Abroad – Jamie Hissey

Virginia Tech Study Abroad

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.

jamievirginia2The 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.