Architecture is an international as well as a local business, both professionally and in academia.
The benefits of studying architecture abroad extend beyond simply getting a university degree, but cover the whole range of experiences that are necessary to create a fully-rounded professional architect.
1. See Different Construction Styles
Culture shapes the construction style, or perhaps the construction style shapes the culture.
In Asia, bamboo is a plentiful resource, and it is used for scaffolding and as a construction material. In the States, this material would be exotic and extraordinary.
Studying abroad allows you to experience a different culture as a local rather than a tourist. The difference is that you experience the buildings rather than viewing them as an abstract concept.
By living in and experiencing the structures, you understand why the materials and construction methods dominate your host country. You appreciate the problems they solve and the resources available.
2. Meet Different People
Studying architecture abroad introduces you to a different set of students with diverse backgrounds and life experiences. You also get to meet ordinary people going about their lives with a whole range of other acceptable behaviors and habits.
This experience is valuable from both a self-development perspective and as a future architect.
Meeting new people and learning different perspectives helps you challenge assumptions you hold about how life works. You also gain an appreciation of other opinions and ways of approaching and solving problems.
Meeting new people on their home turf builds cultural sensitivity.
As an architect, you may work across the world with clients and teams from different cultures and backgrounds to yours. Understanding how to modify your behavior to accept differences in approach is an invaluable skill that will promote your career and future working opportunities.
3. Experience Different Teaching Methods
As a student in your home country, you are familiar with your high school and college teaching style.
Now, here is the surprising fact – other countries do it differently. There is no one right way to teach people what they need to know.
You may come across:
- The Authority Figure: The dispenser of wisdom tells the class what they need to know, and you take notes. There may be questions at the end, but not always.
- The Facilitator: The professor encourages you and the other students to work through the problem to discover the solution by thinking it through, asking questions, and sharing experiences.
- The Director: You are assigned a project or task and encouraged to find out how to get the best outcome.
The academic benefit of studying architecture abroad and encountering different teaching styles is that this experience prepares you for the workplace. You will meet different managers with a similar approach to the above teaching styles.
The experience makes you more flexible and familiar with the need to adapt to circumstances and different management styles.
4. Language Skills
If you want to understand and speak a foreign language as fluently as a native speaker, then live and work in that country.
By studying architecture abroad, you immerse yourself in another culture, and if it is a non-English speaking country, you can polish your language skills.
This experience looks great on your resume because it shows you can speak a foreign language fluently. That may give you the edge in a job interview against other candidates without this desirable skill.
5. Develop Independence
Moving out of your comfort zone into a different country with the challenges of being away from home and not understanding how everything works lets you learn to be independent.
You face experiences and challenges that you need to solve, promoting independent and flexible thinking. Your shoestring budget means you learn to earn money as a student and save while studying abroad.
Your skills improve because you need to learn how to get things done in unfamiliar territory; you learn how to adapt, survive, and thrive. The experience will change you and give you greater self-confidence in your approach to solving your problems.
6. Increase Career Opportunities
When you apply for work, the experience and skills for time spent studying abroad add an extra dimension to your CV. You demonstrate that you are adaptable, flexible, and resilient – all great qualities in an employee.
Plus, you may have increased your fluency with a foreign language through your studies abroad and built an impressive portfolio of design ideas from experiencing another culture.
7. Life Experience
The benefit of studying architecture abroad is that it gives you a once in a lifetime experience of living and working in a different climate and culture.
When you return home, graduate, and get a job, you may settle back into a life in the States with occasional holidays overseas.
By studying overseas, you gain a life experience that you can get in no other way because you do not intend to move to another country for work. It builds good memories and leaves you with an understanding that there are many ways of living and working.
8. Experience the Buildings
Studying a building and experiencing a building is different. As an architecture student, the benefit of studying abroad is that you gain practical experience of how structures in other countries work.
You understand how the light falls through the windows, creating shade and coolness, dealing with excess rainfall, and the risk posed by earthquakes to buildings.
Theory about thick walls and small windows resulting in dark, cool interiors is one thing: walking from sweltering heat into a dark, cool room gives you a different perspective.
The ability to walk through and live inside large and small structures built for different purposes and conditions gives you a depth of knowledge that you can’t get from books.
9. See the Big Picture
Architecture is about society – functional building and public spaces. Every culture’s cities and towns are similar but different.
People have their basic needs for food, shopping, health care, entertainment, living, and working. Accommodating human needs is different in every country – from triple glazing in Finland to narrow medieval streets in Spain.
How a society functions, the spaces it creates and uses, and the design details create a whole that is much more than the sum of its parts are one of the lessons. Living and studying architecture abroad allows you to understand how different societies use and value buildings.
This experience can give you a lifetime of ideas and possibly plant a seed and desire to experience different architectural styles across the world as an ongoing interest.
10. Understand City Life
Cities have characters; Chicago is not New York. The city’s style and function are a complex mix of work, people, and architecture.
As an architect, you need to understand if it is the people who shape the city buildings or the architectural style that shapes the life of the city. It is easier to observe the micro and macro influences on a city when you are on the outside looking in.
Studying architecture abroad gives you the benefit of seeing with an observer’s eye.
You can take the experience of understanding a city in this unique architectural way home with you and apply it to the cities and towns you come across in your familiar environment. You can add value to improving the built environment when you understand how the urban landscape functions through exposure to other models.
11. Real-world Experience
An architect builds structures in the real world for people to live and work. A broad experience of architectural styles from ancient civilizations to ambitious new cities reaching for the skies is invaluable.
You learn more from a walk with a sketchbook or camera down the back streets of an unfamiliar town, village, or castle than you can from theoretical models.
Architecture is one of the study areas that is firmly rooted in the past while reaching for tomorrow.
Observing and learning how other architects solved problems and created stunning new designs by experiencing their buildings teach you how to create and innovate with a practical experience foundation.
12. Different Environments
Time spent studying architecture abroad exposes you to different environments and how this influences how people live and what types of buildings suit the area.
- Local resources – wealthy landowners can import exotic stones and materials from far-flung locations, but the bulk of the buildings use locally available materials.
- Climate – people’s homes reflect the influence of their local climate and weather – houses built on stilts in flood-prone plains.
- Challenges – earthquake zones like Japan have different structures to cities like Venice built on water.
- Style – Spanish houses are different from German ones. Countries have a unique style and character that architecture mirrors and promotes.
The primary benefit of studying architecture abroad is the practical experience of immersing yourself in another culture.
All the other benefits, including promoting independence, critical thinking, new ways of working, and acquiring fluency in another language, stem from removing yourself from a familiar environment and throwing yourself into the experience.
Most architectural degree courses promote time studying overseas because of the benefits of experiencing what it is like to walk the streets of a strange city where the air, the light, and the rain is different from anything you have experienced at home.
Living and studying abroad is different from the snapshot gained from a fleeting visit. Maximize the benefits of studying architecture abroad by taking every opportunity to broaden the experience by visiting neighboring countries.
Build a portfolio of pictures and notes of your impressions while they are fresh and new so you can retain and use the knowledge in your future designs and projects.
Studying architecture abroad has some drawbacks, but should you decide that the pros outweigh the cons, you can explore some of the best countries to study architecture, shortlist your favorites, and start applying to the architecture schools.