ECU students study construction methods in Europe

Construction management students and Dr. Amin Akhnoukh, front row left, pose for a picture during a study of old and modern buildings in Italy and the Netherlands. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Amin Akhnoukh)

From ancient sites to new-era buildings, a group of East Carolina University construction management students experienced it all during a recent study abroad trip to Italy and the Netherlands.

The 21 students in the construction quality and human resource management, and the global sustainable construction courses spent about two weeks examining various buildings and listening to lectures as part of the trip.

“To my knowledge, that is the largest number of students we’ve ever had in this study abroad program since we started three or four years ago,” said Dr. Amin Akhnoukh, associate professor in the Department of Construction Management in the College of Engineering and Technology. “It was a mix of historical construction and sustainable construction.”

Before the trip, the students spent time in a regular class at ECU, and then after the trip, continued for another three weeks to complete the six credit hours.

“This study abroad is part of a summer class,” Akhnoukh said. “It’s four weeks on campus and then two weeks overseas in two different countries.”

The Colosseum in Rome is shown. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Amin Akhnoukh)

The group started in Rome.

“I showed them what was in Italy and correlated that to the class,” Akhnoukh said. “We went to old construction, like the Colosseum, the Roman ruins, Vatican City, Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Stairs, all the famous places in Rome.”

After a look at the old, the students got a look at the new through Han University of Applied Sciences in Arnhem, Netherlands.

“Our department has an exchange program with Han University,” Akhnoukh said. “They have an international week. They bring their own students — the Dutch students from the Netherlands —and have a big celebration, and they invite international students to their campus from all over the world.”

Akhnoukh said the ECU students attended lectures and exchanged ideas with the international and Dutch students. They toured modern Dutch construction, some of which included “natural” walls using vegetation.

East Carolina University construction management students looked at modern bridge construction as well as sustainability, such as wind turbines, while in the Netherlands. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Amin Akhnoukh)

“They showed us a new, green building and how they do their recycling and how they do their heating and air-conditioning with energy efficiency,” Akhnoukh said. “It was very innovative, how they take advantage of their waste and how they do their cooling for the buildings. It was a really neat experience for us.”

The students also had the chance to experience a bit of the culture of both countries.

“There was some fun – soccer, trivia nights, activities, dances,” Akhnoukh said. “They experienced the food and had some socials with music and everything.”

Upon their return to the United States, the students went straight to work.

“They had four assignments to write reports about what they had seen and to correlate what they had seen to what they are studying,” Akhnoukh said. “They wrote very strong reports about recycling and green structures and how things are different in Europe than they are here.”

And, Akhnoukh believes that will help the students in their future careers.

“We’ll see the impact down the road,” he said. “It’s still early.”

East Carolina University construction management students enjoy a meal in Italy. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Amin Akhnoukh)

The Pantheon in Rome is shown. East Carolina University construction management students recently completed a tour of old and new buildings in Italy and the Netherlands during a study abroad trip. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Amin Akhnoukh)