In May, a group of six civil and environmental engineering students embarked on an enriching journey to Spain, visiting both Madrid and Santander. This unique program combined cultural exploration and hands-on coastal engineering research, offering a well-rounded experience that broadened their academic and personal horizons.

Discovering Madrid's Cultural Treasures

The trip began in Madrid where the group spent three nights immersing themselves in the city's cultural heritage. The students explored iconic landmarks such as the Plaza de la Independencia and attended an exhilarating Flamenco show, experiencing the heart and soul of Spanish art and history.

One of the highlights was a day trip to Segovia, a UNESCO World Heritage Site renowned for its ancient Roman aqueduct. The Aqueduct of Segovia, a marvel of civil engineering, is known for its monumental structure and excellent state of conservation. They also visited the Alcázar of Segovia, a 12th-century medieval castle.

Coastal Engineering in Santander

The main focus of the program was in Santander, where the students engaged in intensive coastal engineering research. Hosted by the University of Cantabria (UoC) from May 21-25, the program offered a deep dive into coastal engineering through lectures, group work, lab visits, and field trips. The UoC faculty members shared their expertise, demonstrating how they approach the challenges of coastal engineering in their region.

Each day in Santander followed a structured routine. The group would start with breakfast together before heading to the university or a nearby research institute. The mornings included sessions on coastal engineering topics, followed by lunch at a local restaurant. Afternoons were spent at the UoC, where students had the opportunity to explore advanced labs and learn about ongoing research projects. Evenings were reserved for exploring Santander's scenic beauty and enjoying dinners together.

A Transformative Experience

Six students took part in this non-credit, research-focused program. For some, this was their first time leaving the United States or visiting Europe, making the trip an eye-opening adventure in many ways. The students gained invaluable insights into coastal engineering practices from a global perspective and learned about civil communities in a different part of the world.

Faculty leaders also used this opportunity to strengthen their collaboration with colleagues at the University of Cantabria, paving the way for future partnerships. The hope is to create more opportunities for students to connect with UoC and participate in similar enriching programs.

This trip to Madrid and Santander was more than just an academic venture; it was a journey of discovery, learning, and cultural immersion. As the students returned home, they brought back not only knowledge of coastal engineering but also memories and experiences that will shape their future endeavors.

“After seeing what the University of Cantabria (UC) and the Hydraulics Institute (IHCantabria) has to offer, Virginia Tech students have much to gain from taking classes at this university for either undergraduate to graduate degree programs,” said civil and environmental engineering graduate student Landen Furr.

Information about other programs

The civil and environmental engineering department is excited to announce upcoming international opportunities. Applications are open for the 2025 Bridges, Builders & Society class with a travel component to the United Kingdom. Additionally, in August, the department will open applications for the Fall 2025 Semester Abroad program at the Steger Center in Riva San Vitale, Switzerland.