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Study Abroad

Ashton Politz's Study Abroad Experience

Heidi Williams

Major: Civil, Environmental and Sustainable Engineering

Expected Graduation Year: 2019

Host Country and Name of School: University College Cork, Ireland - Fall 2017

How did you prepare for Study Abroad and how did you choose your program?

I talked with older civil engineering students who studied abroad in Cork, Ireland, to learn about both their academic and cultural experience. They all had a really good experience. I knew I wanted to go to an English-speaking country and had never been to Ireland, so University College in Cork was a good choice for me.

Where did you stay, and how was the experience?

I stayed at a student accommodation called the Spires about 8 minutes from campus. My roommate was another Santa Clara student, which was really nice especially when we were adjusting to the Irish culture. Also, there were three other students in our apartment who were from other parts of the United States. They, too, were great to live with and learn from.

What courses did you take and how did they differ from your courses at SCU?

I took three civil engineering courses—Traffic and Highways, Mechanics of Soils, and Civil Engineering Systems; 2 core classes—Greek Mythology and Nineteenth-Century American Literature; and one study abroad requirement class—Introduction to Modern Irish History for Visiting Students. There was very minimal homework and there were no midterms.

Did you do much travelling or participate in other activities?

I travelled to Munich, Paris, London, Madrid, Galway, Northern Ireland, and various counties in Ireland. And I actually joined the archery club at University College Cork. I went to practices once a week and it was great to meet Irish students while also shooting a bow and arrow, something I rarely, if ever, get to do in the United States. 

How have you changed as a result of your experience?

I feel like I have a better appreciation for the cultures in other countries. Also, I also got to see some incredible engineering feats in other countries that expanded my horizons as to what I can accomplish as a civil engineer. For starters, the Eiffel Tower in Paris is absolutely incredible. Notre Dame cathedral in Paris with its vaulted ceilings and beautiful stained-glass windows was breathtaking. Also, in Amsterdam the canals running through the city that are used as a means of transportation were unique. Seeing them made me think about how flooding is controlled or, the opposite, how do they prevent water levels from getting too low? Also, what are the benefits of having canals throughout the city for transportation purposes? Why do we not have them here in the United States? I guess what they taught me about my craft is that there is so much left for me to learn. These experiences inspired me to want to learn more about how the structures were built and how they have been able to last this long. And, in today's day and age, how can we take these structures and make them more sustainable? 

Would you recommend Study Abroad to others?

I absolutely would! My experience abroad was a life-changing experience for me. I thought as an engineer I would not have the opportunity to study abroad, and when I found out I could, I was not only was thrilled, but it made me appreciate just a little more my experience.