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Study Abroad

Established in 1968 as a summer studio, the Europe Study Abroad programs are now offered in various lengths and types during the entire year. These programs enable students, during any of the University academic sessions, to earn up to 12 credits studying and traveling in Europe. There are also other study abroad programs within the College of Architecture and Urban Studies based in many other parts of the world.

The study abroad programs offer an educational experience which acquaints students with a variety of cultural settings. Students have the opportunity to make comparative studies of different cultures, as well as to study the relationship of culture to the physical environment, and the history and theory of cities. In addition to extensive travel, all study abroad programs offer a series of lectures and discussions which address these topics in detail.

Students document elements of the physical environment, which range in scale from single objects to the analysis of cities. Further, they explore the interface between buildings and the fabric of the existing city. Through diverse means of documentation, students are able to present their analyses of the habitable, physical environment. From sketches and drawings to computer models, photographs and essays, these studies are guided by the particular interests of each student. Often, architects responsible for designing buildings which have been the subject of study are invited to give lectures and to lead seminars about their work. The programs are organized in such a way that students, through the critical examination and discussion of their own home environments, are encouraged to apply these experiences to their work when they return to the United States.

Being able to effectively formulate environmental factors with which one lives is the goal of the Study Abroad experience. Living and studying in a foreign setting focuses attention on issues taken for granted in familiar surroundings. Students explore, in depth, the relationships among cultures and their settlement patterns. Encounters with new intellectual and cultural frameworks challenge traditional planning and architectural design criteria. Special on-site studies further encourage students to expand their understanding of design’s political, social, and historical contexts.

Study, research, and travel activities enhance global awareness in the College’s various educational programs. To support students for extended travel and studio residency, the Europe Study Abroad programs provide culture and human settlement studies, history/theory courses and language instruction. The Study Abroad programs also host many professionals from who have designed, built, and researched the urban design fabric and architecture being studied. In collaboration with these visitors, lectures, seminars, and site visits enable students to better understand their own approaches to the built environment.

The Europe Study Abroad programs, travel or residency, are for students who wish to examine the assumptions and presuppositions that support the conventions and theories of architecture, urban planning and the allied design professions.


Photo by Marc Gee, Fall 1994

Europe Travel

A study and travel itinerary is prepared specially each academic session, emphasizing various issues in design, urban studies, architecture and allied disciplines in the arts. Each travel program has approximately 8-9 weeks of organized travel. Students normally add two or more weeks of independent travel before returning to their homes. Courses in Design, History + Theory and Culture Study are offered each semester (check particular offerings and faculty each term).

Each fall semester, approx. 25-40 undergraduate and graduate architecture and design students participate in the Europe Study Abroad Travel Program.

Europe Residency

At Virginia Tech’s Steger Center for International Scholarship (formerly Center for European Studies and Architecture) at the Villa Maderni in Riva San Vitale, Switzerland, Studio Residency students interact with students from other Virginia Tech programs, sharing extensive library resources, well-equipped lecture rooms, studios, room and board accommodations and extensive private surrounding gardens. This centrally located facility is a valuable resource for short trips into Italy, France, Austria, Germany and the surrounding areas of Switzerland. The studio has access to unique urban and rural, contemporary and historical ways of life and their built environments.

Architects, designers and patrons of international scope are important collaborators to each Europe Studio program. On-site visits of significant projects, interviews with and presentations by well-known professionals, and participation with important international exhibitions of art and culture are indispensable resources provided by each program. Emphasis will continue to focus on human settlement documentation and design opportunities developed through student interests and individual areas of research in architecture and the allied arts. Courses in Design, History/Theory and Culture Study are offered each semester (check particular offerings and faculty each term).

Each fall semester and each spring semester, approximately 16 undergraduate and graduate students from the School of Architecture + Design are in residence at the Steger Center for International Scholarship.

Interior Design Study Abroad

The two-week Summer Interior Design Study Abroad program is based in Florence, Italy, with trips to other sites in the region. Students will learn about the architectural history of the area and will be engaged in sketching the places visited. The program is open to all A+D majors.

CAUS Interdisciplinary Education Abroad Program

The College of Architecture & Urban Studies offers an annual Interdisciplinary Summer Education Abroad Program in Western Europe. The summer session program explores the landscape, cities, construction, art and culture through travel in France, the Netherlands, Germany and Switzerland. An interdisciplinary approach is used to study how the built environment and culture may be interpreted through ‘close-looking’ in a broad cultural context.

Open to rising fourth-year landscape architecture and architecture students as well as others interested in the design of built environments. This program is hosted through the landscape architecture program.

Special Study Abroad Programs

During the Summer sessions or during the Winter session, special study abroad options are often offered by the School of Architecture + Design, allowing A+D students the opportunity to travel and study architecture and design in various parts of the world, including Asia (Japan, India) and Latin America.

International exchange

A wide variety of individual international exchange programs place students in foreign academic settings. Virginia Tech has developed a number of bi-lateral exchange agreements with foreign universities with schools of architecture across the globe.

For example, the School of Architecture + Design has a long-standing exchange agreement with the Accademia di architettura in Mendrisio, Switzerland, widely regarded as one of Europe’s and the world’s foremost schools of architecture. Studios, or ateliers, are taught by renowned architects. Lectures and critiques by distinguished visiting architects, a full complement of outstanding courses, and a top-level student body combine to make study at the Accademia an unparalleled experience.

Links to travel-related web resources