A once-in-a-lifetime experience filled with immersive learning, collaborative creativity and traveling the world — does it get any better?
Valerie Uehling, a junior interior design major from Uehling, Nebraska, seized the opportunity to study abroad this summer and attend the Atelier La Juntana’s Model Making in the Digital Age Workshop in Spain. The trip was led by Brian Kelly, associate professor in the College of Architecture.
University Communication and Marketing spoke with Uehling about her experience.
How has your study abroad experience expanded your architectural knowledge outside of the classroom?
In the classroom, we can reference different precedents online, in textbooks, from pictures, but nothing like we can when we experience them in person. Studying abroad has exposed me to architecture like I have never seen before. I learned about double facades, ornamentation, gothic architecture, organic designs, and the list goes on. As a designer, it is much easier to learn by experiencing, doing, seeing or watching. Studying abroad allowed me to immerse myself in design and that is the ultimate way to learn about architecture and the beauty of the built environment.
Which part of the trip was your favorite, and why?
Barcelona was my favorite city we visited! Our group had the opportunity to tour multiple buildings and places that the famous architect, Antoni Gaudi, designed. This was our longest stay, two weeks, which allowed us to explore more of the city and neighborhood we stayed in. We also had our first, and only, free weekend of the entire study abroad trip. We filled our free weekend with beach days and group dinners at different local restaurants. At night we found ourselves sketching together while locals and other tourists looked over our shoulders and admired our work. Our group was constantly asking each other for sketching advice, recommendations, guidance and feedback. This is what our major is all about.
Liencres will forever hold a special place in my heart. The town is located on the northern coast of Spain and has similar qualities to Nebraska. Every day, for a week, we would walk about 25 minutes from our small apartment in town to the workshop which was in the country. We would see cattle, horses, corn fields, and a beautiful view of the ocean on our way to the workshop. Our group became especially close during this week. We cooked our meals together, went on hikes to the beaches, and worked on projects together from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the workshop. Armor, Nertos and Daniel, our workshop leaders and astounding architects/designers, guided us through the workshop and happily shared their knowledge with us. They were a huge reason we all loved Liencres.
Talk about the learning opportunities that come with studying abroad.
Studying any subject abroad will be beneficial. My whole life I have always heard adults saying, “Man, I wish I would’ve just studying abroad,” and I am now proof of why students should. Studying is one thing, but being immersed into an entirely different culture while doing it is another. The sights, sounds, smells, memories, horror stories, etc., are what make it all worth it. Our group got to learn from talented architects and designers from Spain, which we may never had gotten to do if we didn’t study abroad. As a student learning in another country, you learn how to be extremely flexible. The schedule isn’t like a typical semester at the university, plans change, places aren’t open when you thought they would be, language becomes a true barrier, etc. All in all, studying abroad teaches you much more than the class you sign up for.
How will your involvement in the workshop abroad help you in the future?
I am very excited for model-making in future studio projects. I hope, if given the opportunity, I can create an abstract model that encapsulates more than what the eye can see. The workshop taught me how to think outside of the box when it comes to model making and how to push not only my limits but the project brief as well. This experience is one that will follow me not only through college, but throughout my career as well.
What is your favorite part about the College of Architecture?
As a freshman, you take combined classes with architecture, interior design and landscape architecture majors. It isn’t until you apply for second year, do you all go your separate ways. I have studio with 16 other interior design students from eight to noon every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. All our classes are extremely small which means all of us are very close. We spend every day together and eventually, as cliché as it sounds, they feel like family.
What is one piece of advice you would give a College of Architecture student?
If you can make it past the first year, you can make it through the rest. Freshman year is a challenge nobody can prepare you for. Find classmates who you enjoy being around and learn how to push each other while keeping one another accountable. You’re probably going to want to change your major a time or two (completely normal) but remind yourself why you chose the major and stick with it.
What is something you’ve learned that will stick with you after you graduate?
A perfect design doesn’t come from your first iteration. Work through the process, use your peers, gain feedback, practice, implement uncomfortable ideas and iterate. No matter where I end up in the future or what I end up doing, being an interior design major has taught me that practice makes perfect and there’s always room for improvement.