UNH Exchange Programs
Spotlight on Heriot-Watt University — Scotland
Edinburgh is world famous for its remarkable history, beauty, architecture, festivals and the arts, and it’s no wonder students from all over the world want to study there. The capital of Scotland is also a renowned center of learning, as UNH students have been discovering for years thanks to a long-standing exchange program with Heriot-Watt University. One of Edinburgh’s premier institutions of higher education, Heriot-Watt (HWU) was recently honored as “Scottish University of the Year” by The Sunday Times of London. It is also Scotland’s most international university.
Engineering is what this exchange is all about. Typically, four UNH juniors travel to HWU each spring, taking courses there in structural analysis, environmental engineering, and geotechnical engineering. One of last spring’s exchange students, Bodhi Piedmont-Fleishmann, found her semester illuminating: “Getting to experience a different way of schooling and life was really important, in terms of recognizing the amazing parts of UNH, and what could be done differently.” Ray Cook, associate professor in Civil Engineering and academic coordinator of the UNH exchange, finds the academic experience rigorous and relevant. “Heriot-Watt has been a leader and innovator in the sciences and engineering since the early 19th century,” he emphasizes.
UNH exchange programs are an affordable way for students to gain international experience. Students pay regular UNH tuition and are able to maintain their financial aid while abroad. At Heriot-Watt, in addition to CEPS-relevant coursework, our engineering students engage with their Scottish counterparts — and students from around the world — on a daily basis. Exchange students, whether they live on campus or in Edinburgh, participate in a rich variety of student organizations and social activities there. They enjoy academic field excursions, some organized by professors or student organizations, and some on their own (see below). Mary Ferguson (B.S. Civil & Environmental Engineering ’09; M.S. Stanford University ’11) found the independent nature of the program rewarding: “While I was a student at HWU, I traveled to Ireland, England, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Italy and the Canary Islands,” Mary reflects, remembering her exchange in 2008. “Being that you are in class with tons of other students from all of Europe, you can really take advantage of some of the holidays by traveling with new friends to their home countries.” She also found that studying abroad in an engineering context gave her a distinct advantage in getting her current job with an international company: “My firm relies heavily on their engineers' ability to adapt to other countries’ construction methods, building codes as well as professional culture,” Mary states. “Studying at HWU has been invaluable to me both academically and professionally.”
Heriot-Watt students find UNH’s Civil Engineering Program at the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences an equally attractive place to study abroad. John Shepheard, a HWU student currently at UNH, learned about the Durham campus from the UNH exchange students he befriended on his home campus last year. Those interactions helped him chose UNH over Heriot-Watt’s other exchange options at universities on several continents. John feels the quality of the classes and students are similar in both places, and is excited about his senior capstone project here: working as part of a team of students to design a bridge replacement project for an AECOM site in Massachusetts. John also plays UNH rugby and is fully involved in campus life at UNH. He lives in a dorm and enjoys the spontaneous social life which comes from being in a close community: “As soon as other students hear my accent, they are really interested in getting to know me,” he happily reports.
Because the two universities have such complementary programs, the transition back from abroad is often seamless. For UNH students returning from Scotland, “they find they are academically right on track or even a bit ahead of their Durham colleagues as they start their senior year,” according to Professor Cook. “They also find they have grown in self-confidence, independence, and international awareness.” Our Heriot-Watt alumni often cite their time north of Hadrian's Wall as the highlight of their UNH education. According to Bodhi: “Heriot-Watt is a great school in the most amazing city I have ever seen. I would definitely go back in a heartbeat!”
International Affairs Alumna Organizes Key Field Excursion for UNH Exchange Students
A bit of synchronicity brought our Heriot-Watt exchange students to a state-of-the-art distillery and bio-energy plant in Scotland. CIE’s successful Happy Returns Program (see related article) had Roberta Barbieri (International Affairs/Environmental Conservation/Italian ’88) back on campus visiting classes in early Spring 2010. She was sharing her experience as Global Environmental Project Manager with Diageo, the world’s largest premium drinks company, as well as the impact of her IA dual major with students across the University. After presenting in Professor James Malley's environmental engineering class, Barbieri learned from him that he had students studying abroad at Heriot-Watt — which happens to be near Cameronbridge, the Diageo distillery that produces Tanqueray and Johnnie Walker. He thought his students would be interested in Diageo’s innovative combination of technologies (anaerobic digestion, biomass burning, and water recycling) that takes the wastewater from the distillery and turns it into renewable energy which in turn powers the entire distillery. Barbieri quickly contacted a colleague in Scotland and was able to offer Dr Malley’s students a tour of the site, providing a very relevant educational experience to complement their studies abroad.
The visit to the distillery made a lasting impression on student Bodhi Piedmont-Fleishmann: “Our guide was very knowledgeable and friendly, and we learned an incredible amount about both the distillery process and the bio-energy plant they were constructing,” she recalled. “It was one of the most interesting things we did in Scotland!”