Sixteen sophomore engineering students from Loyola Marymount University took advantage of a unique opportunity to participate in a study abroad program specifically geared toward engineering majors. The students spent a semester in Bonn, Germany, accompanied by Jeremy Pal, assistant professor of civil engineering and environmental science, who taught a class and helped them navigate the local culture. “We chose Germany because it is one of the engineering capitals of the world,” Pal said. “They produce high-quality products, create incredible structures and have some of the world’s greatest engineers and scientists.” Students took courses and labs in statics, circuit analysis, physics of electricity and magnetism, German history, culture and language. Classes were held at the AIB Academy for International Education. However, Pal said, Seaver College had to ship all the lab equipment to Bonn for the students’ use. He noted that this might be one of the reasons that more universities do not offer this type of study abroad program. Several times during the semester, students had the opportunity to attend guided excursions to cities elsewhere in Germany and Europe, among them Berlin, Dresden, Brügge, Amsterdam, Pisa and Florence. They viewed structures where technology and history are significantly intertwined. Their destinations included the Blaues Wunder, or Blue Wonder, a German cantilever truss bridge built in 1893, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and the Aachen Cathedral, the oldest cathedral in northern Europe.
great experience for the students
“Some of the structures we visited are more than 1,000 years old and they’re still in use today,” Pal said. “It’s a great experience for the students to do an analysis of these buildings. We don’t have anything that comes close to these structures in the states.” The program had students from civil, environmental, electrical, and mechanical engineering. Some courses emphasized a particular discipline, so students who had expertise in one area of study worked with those who did not to help them understand lectures and complete assignments. “Group work became vitally important,” said Holly Maag, a civil engineering major. “We had to use one another. If one of us was better in that discipline, we would help the
others and vice versa.” One of the primary themes of the trip was sustainable building. Students learned about solar power technology at SolarWorld, a world leader in high-quality solar power energy; studied the Oosterscheldekering, a dam designed to protect the Netherlands from flooding and for more than 200 years; and researched the Deutsche Post DHL, the tallest office building in the federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia. “Sustainability has gone global. It’s so important for the world to become more sustainable, especially for our future generations,” Maag said. “It also was interesting to see how the culture ties in with the engineering.” “It was enriching to experience a different culture that we’re not used to,” said Geanna Flavetta, a civil engineering major. “We’ve all read about the history, but it was exciting to actually see it.”
tour of vw factory
In addition, students had the option to go on several cultural excursions, including a tour of a VW production factory and the Deutsches Museum, the world’s largest technology museum, as well as the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. For their final projects, the students conducted a structural analysis on one of the buildings they visited. Pal said that because the students are in their second year they don’t have all the tools to do a full analysis, but they could pick and choose from what they did know. Tim Burdiak, a mechanical engineering major, did an analysis of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. “We got to apply what we were learning to everyday stuff,” Burdiak said. “And, it was the Leaning Tower of Pisa, after all.” Students said that the program allowed them to experience another country in a much different way than if they had visited on their own. They also said that they walked away with a better understanding of themselves and the world around them. “I found out that I’m a better student than I thought I was. There was no time to be lazy,” Flavetta said. “Also, I felt like I really became a world citizen. I hope to apply everything I learned while abroad back home.”