I studied abroad for my STEP experience in the Fall 2015 semester. My main objective with this project was to supplement my major of City and Regional Planning with real world examples of fantastic and easily implementable design. This was not just a cultural experience abroad, but one where I observed many design practices that pave the way for the future of many cities, including ones domestically in the United States.
One hallmark of not just America, but of many first world countries, is the way people travel in their daily lives. While much of Europe relies on public transport and to a certain extent some American cities, the bicycle as a form of major transportation is almost unheard of. In major Northeastern cities with the bones of their colonial pa
st and subsequent expansion in the 19th and early 20th centuries, the streets and cities are still laid out cater entirely towards public transport and cars. The avenues are wide and overbearing, with the suburbs generally geared mostly towards car transit. European cities are generally different, with a far greater reliance on walking and public transport as a general mode of transportation. Copenhagen, however, blew away the typical norm of cities. Even traveling just a little farther south to Germany saw an entirely different outlook on how cities should be governed and on a smaller scale the streets. The streets of Copenhagen, in opposition to their European and American counterparts, were rife with cyclists jockeying for position on wide, raised lanes, aided by bright painted street symbols and a logical system of maneuvering on these lanes that closely mimics just taking a car along the streets. It does not seem much of change until arrival within the city. It is just such a drastic and refreshing change from what many cities, supported by their inhabitants, believe their streets should be used for. My assumptions of how cities can and should operate changed during this trip. I saw a lifestyle that is one that should be envied and copied. One where everyone have access to the city by safe means on the cheapest vehicle – the bike.
Moving about during daily life was one component of this experience that helped form an engaging learning opportunity and one that opened me up to new ideas. Another was the travel involved. We were taken on trips to Germany, Austria and Switzerland to see new architectural concepts and urban design plans that are shaping how cities are built in the future. Copenhagen and other cities that included Freiburg, Vals, and Aarhus became interesting experiments on a class level that showed how the including the environment in the planning of new neighborhoods could boost the livability of these areas. All of these new places formed a catalog to draw from in the future that can shape how I handle my studies and future work.
This study abroad experience exposed me to so many new places, people, and events. From small mountainous towns in Switzerland to the bustling metropolis of London. I met a ton of different people from all over the world who all added to a new perspective I gained over my semester.