Engineering Buffs Abroad

New staff members Anna Pyle and Vanessa Velez, both juniors majoring in civil engineering, had the opportunity to study abroad during the fall 2017 semester.

Anna – Australia

Studying abroad in Wollongong, Australia for five months opened my eyes to a new world where there were endless beaches, swooping birds, barefooted people, abbreviated words, drivers on the opposite side of the road, kangaroos everywhere and heaps of goon.

Despite the novelties of life down under, Australia, on the whole, wasn’t really a culture shock, though I was very surprised by the cold winter temperatures. I arrived with a suitcase full of bathing suits and dresses but had to buy a blanket, heater, and sweatpants to ward off the chills at night. I guess I underestimated the weather. It got better though! Once springtime came, there were clear skies and sunshine nearly every day, which was perfect for the beach.

I studied at the University of Wollongong. The campus was about the size of CU, and it looked like a rainforest. We were surrounded by ponds and crazy trees that seemed like they came straight out of the pages of Dr. Seuss.

My classes were a 15-minute bus ride from Campus East, where I was living. I ultimately picked this location because it’s only a five-minute walk to the beach.

To make my semester easier, I took one course in engineering and three humanities classes. This meant that I had only three days of class per week, which gave me a four day weekend and, thus, ample time for travel.

I journeyed to well-known places around Australia including Melbourne, Cairns, Brisbane, and Byron Bay. Sydney was only a two hour train ride north of campus, which allowed me to visit frequently. I also had the chance to travel outside of Australia to places such as Thailand, New Zealand, and Vietnam. Most of my trips were really quite amazing, a wonderful complement to spending time with new friends and exploring the city of Wollongong.

If you asked me what my favorite memory abroad was, I couldn’t give you a definite answer. From scuba diving the Great Barrier Reef to skydiving the beaches above Wollongong to hiking the “mountains” in The Royal National Park, there were too many adventures and memories for me to chose just one. Every day involved something new for me to experience. I’m so grateful to have studied abroad in such an amazing place because it has truly been an unforgettable, transformative experience.

Vanessa – Spain

Studying abroad in Madrid, Spain was one of the best decisions I have ever made.

At first, settling into my new home for the semester was a little difficult; I didn’t know anyone, I had never lived in a big city, I had never ridden a metro, and immersing myself in a Spanish-speaking country turned out to be a big adjustment.

Once school started, I was able to meet a lot of other international students on exchange; I met a number of Spanish students, as well, since I took some of my classes in Spanish. My university was actually not in Madrid; it took me about 40 minutes to commute to school by metro. However, I wanted to live in the city and I didn’t plan on spending much time on campus anyway, so living close to city center was definitely the right choice.

Living in Madrid meant that I was never bored, since there is so much going on in the city. From hanging out in the parks, to strolling down Gran Via, to catching Real Madrid soccer games, to finding cool restaurants and bars, there was always something new to experience. But after the first two weeks staying in Madrid,  I decided it was time to start traveling outside of the city.

Once one is in Europe, it is very easy (and cheap!) to travel around. To take advantage of the proximity to so many attractive destinations, I was gone nearly every weekend. Some of my favorite travel memories include: riding mopeds around the island of Ibiza, participating in Oktoberfest in Munich, road tripping up the Portugal coast, camel-jockeying in the Sahara Desert in Morocco, savoring in the incredible food in Italy, and relaxing in the thermal baths in Budapest.

I also did a lot of exploring around Spain, with visits to Barcelona, Valencia, Palma de Mallorca, Granada, Seville and a few smaller cities. It was hard to leave once my four and a half month vacation came to an end.

I am so glad that I took the opportunity to study abroad because it was, by far, one of the best experiences that I have ever had. As I think back longingly, I definitely miss Madrid, all the tapas and sangria it has to offer, the friends I made, and the places and adventures I experienced traveling around Europe.


– Anna Pyle & Vanessa Velez

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