Everyone should do this! Go abroad and do architecture! It’s the perfect way of getting some perspective on your education and it’s a great personal challenge. You will never forget the experience and it will for sure change your life.
Throw yourself out there! Out of your comfort zone. Go somewhere all by yourself. I went as far away I could possibly get. Go there and make new friends! Find your way in a new town, which is not at all like what you are used to. Then start understanding the different culture, and live it. That’s the challenge! In the process you will learn about yourself and who you are without your friends and families around you. And you will change. Your eyes will open.
And to those who love architecture, you also might learn something academic related. Something you would never have learned at home. As an architect student, you might learn from all the great new inspiration sources. I got inspired by the amazing nature of Australia, the spacy modern architecture of Melbourne as well as the traditional terrace houses of the province. Just by using my ‘architect eyes’ while moving around.
Most important, by studying architecture in Australia I learned that there is a different way to do architecture, then the way I’m taught in Denmark. It is a great lesson to learn how architecture is taught in other cultures. Apparently it is not all architect students, who find Danish Jorn Utzon’s Opera house in Sydney the greatest masterpiece in the world. On the other hand, the Danish Bjarke Ingels is a huge star for some students and teachers, where we in Denmark question his diagrams as even being architecture.
That kind of experiences make you question your own architectural education. And in this field it’s important always to be critical and to ask questions about what architecture is. During my exchange at Deakin University, I became very aware of why I think about architecture the way I do, and why I work the way I do. I know what I learned from my education in Denmark, and how that’s different from other places. There is no right or wrong way, but it helped me a lot to understand, what I can compared to other international architect students.
It’s always a challenge to change direction or to do things in a different way. The architecture education at Deakin University is very different, from Aarhus School of Architecture in Denmark. The biggest challenge for me was to do architecture in a different way then what I’m used to and to learb the new methods. I learned and I brought it all with me home and used it in Denmark. So not only do you learn about yourself doing an exchange program, you also learn new academic methods, you would never have learned at home. But an even more important lesson I’ve learned: The international teamwork. Working in an international team is something we probably all are going to do in the future globalized world. And I find it very interesting and challenging to undertake a teamwork with international students, where we all have different opinions on architecture. That brings some challenges to the table. You have to work with the differences and make the best of it and learn from it. Learn how to operate in an international team and to quickly understand all teammates intentions across language and culture barrios.
Of course there is also one disadvantage of doing an exchange. The whole thing is on borrowed time. You leave your home country with your closest friends and families around you, and you are furious about missing them the next six months. Before you know it, you are in Australia sadly saying goodbye to the new friends and people you have been with the last 6 months. Of course the goodbye-part is not fun, but luckily the new memories overshadow the goodbyes, and I would do it all again a million times. I will recommend all architect students to do an exchange program. Come to Europe or even better, come to Denmark! The differences will for sure chock you. Some things you will love, some things you will hate, but you will for sure learn more about yourself and about what architecture is. Maybe it won’t change your own opinion about architecture, but you will for sure understand what architecture is for other people. You will meet new people from a different culture. And you will for sure never forget it.
Jeanette Amby recently graduated from Aarhus School of Architecture. During her studies she have specialised herself in international architecture and cultural influences in architecture. She has traveled a lot during her studies and done three semesters abroad. In 2014 she did an exchange program at Deakin University. Today she is working as an architect at Laban Arkitekter in Denmark.