Experiencing European Culture & Architecture with Vermont Tech

Fourteen Vermont Tech students recently returned from a study-abroad excursion in Western Europe. The group, including three advisors and three friends of the college, were led by Professor Brad Miller of the Architectural Engineering Technology program across Germany, Austria, Italy, and Switzerland.

This learning opportunity was part of the Architectural History with Studies Abroad class that couples in-class instruction with the practical experience Vermont Tech is known for. The cultural backgrounds of the countries were studied in class and then experienced first-hand in the destination countries. Students reported a deeper understanding of the current international issues affecting the destination country’s citizens. 

Miller has been teaching Architectural History for six years. This marks the second trip he has taken with the students abroad.  Before that, the wonderful professor, Barbara Conrey, took the students abroad on around 15 trips. Miller has continued the tradition of offering study-abroad opportunities because of the tremendous impact they continue to have.

The trip began in Munich, where the tour got to see the Nymphenburg Palace, a Baroque style building designed by Agostino Barelli in the 17th Century. While in Germany they also saw the Gothic and Renaissance Heidelberg Castle and Romanesque style Neuschwanstein Castle. More modern buildings, like those on the campus of the de-constructivist BMW Welt, were also seen on the trip. From Germany, the group passed through Austria where they saw Hungerburgbahn station which was designed by Zaha Hadid, the first woman in history to receive the Pritzker Architecture Prize. The group also traveled through Venice and Lake Como, Italy as well as Lucerne, Switzerland.

Getting to witness the architecture in-person offered a unique perspective for the students. During the semester, the class learned about various building styles and studied them through images and video. Miller said, “On a slide, it’s just flat. All you get is visual. But when you’re in the building, all your senses come into play.”

Among the advisors were International Students Coordinator, Kathleen Mason, and Associate Academic Dean, Rosemary Distel, who were instrumental in making the trip a success. “I couldn’t do it without the help of chaperones and advisors,” Miller said, “and the abilities of Kathleen and Rose in working with students helped make it, in the words of the students, an amazing trip.”

Students experienced a wide range or architectural styles, but you don’t have to be an architecture student to enjoy this trip.

VAST student, Elizabeth Farrell (2018) remarked that, “On this trip, I experienced European culture, explored more than five different cities, tried foods from a variety of places, attempted and succeeded in ordering off of menus in German and Italian, and made friends with people from both Vermont Tech and the European cities that we visited. During this trip, I learned a lot about who I am and what I want. I pushed myself, proving that I can function well independently. I look back on the trip and remember every experience as positive and a happy memory. I had fun through everything we did while learning first-hand about culture, history, and architecture.”

Wes McEntee, a 2018 graduate of Vermont Tech had been on two Vermont State College sponsored trips to Europe and was excited for his third. He said, “Going on these trips gives students the opportunity to go to amazing and beautiful places and to witness their cultures first hand. Having the opportunity to have conversations with people from other countries and being able to share lifestyles and viewpoints with each other is a most enlightening experience that I have valued very much.”