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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

Nine ODU students. Nine days in Germany.

By Keith Pierce

Before the ink was dry on their last spring final, nine Old Dominion University engineering students were in Munich, the capital of Bavaria in Germany, to learn about the role of engineering abroad. Though the trip included a visit to the Black Forest, the setting for the Grimm fairy tales, there was nothing grim about the nine days they spent exploring one of the leading nations for science and technology.

From touring Old Town Munich to admire architectural wonders like the Old Town Hall and St. Peter's Church to visiting the Deutsches Museum of Munich, the world's largest museum of science and technology with about 28,000 exhibited objects from 50 fields, the trip was packed with activity.

"Traveling to Germany was rewarding, educational and life-changing," said Abbie Dean, a rising senior majoring in civil and environmental engineering. "I was able to immerse myself in the culture of Germany while learning more about engineering from a new perspective. I was inspired by the various companies and the opportunity to network with engineers abroad."

The multidisciplinary engineering students experienced behind-the-scenes tours of factories, including BMW, Audi, Siemens and Busch Vacuum Pumps and Systems. During their Busch tour in Mulburg, Germany, managing directors Sami and Kaya Busch answered questions about working and studying in Germany.

"We learned a lot about the differences between the American and German education systems and the way people work there," said Dean, who interned at Busch as a freshman. "For example, I didn't know that enrollment at a university in Germany costs virtually nothing. It was also exciting to see such a large German family business like Busch."

The students, along with former Batten College of Engineering and Technology Dean Stephanie Adams, Associate Dean Rafael Landaeta and Assistant Dean Carol Considine, also toured Transsolar Klima Engineering, an international climate firm known for creating spaces adapted to their environments.

"Transsolar Klima was one of our favorite corporate engineering visits," Considine said. "The students were amazed by the company's use of designs that are integrated into the surrounding environment to allow for human connections to the natural environment. This reduces energy demands for heating and cooling. It was very interesting for all of us."

The group also interacted with students and faculty at the Technical University of Munich and visited historical sites such as Dachau, the site of Germany's first Nazi concentration camp. Created for political prisoners, the camp served as a model for subsequent concentration camps.

"I would say that visiting Dachau gave me a greater appreciation for the survivors of the Holocaust and how we must honor those who died in concentration camps by never forgetting their stories," Dean said.

Landaeta said the college will continue leveraging study-abroad opportunities.

"Offering engineering students the opportunity to experience how engineering design and operations are performed in other countries is a critical educational service of our college," he said. "Our students met engineering students, engineers, engineering managers and owners of engineering firms."

"I honestly believe it was the best time of my life," said Mark Patton, a rising senior majoring in modeling and simulation engineering. "Getting to see how engineers work in another country and experiencing new cultural norms, such as having to pay for bathrooms and beer being cheaper than water, was interesting. All of that, plus making many new friends, has led to an experience I will remember for years to come."

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