ECU construction management students attend event in the Netherlands

The opportunity to visit the Netherlands and learn about how other nations are building with sustainability drew three East Carolina University construction management students to HAN University’s International Week.

Construction management students Jalene Camey, Carson Haithcox and Stavros Boardman, at left, observe construction techniques during a trip to HAN University in the Netherlands.

Stavros Boardman, Jalene Camey and Carson Haithcox, along with Dr. Daniel Perrucci, assistant professor in the Department of Construction Management, toured the campus in Arnhem, attended sessions and classes, and explored parts of the country during their visit.

“Universities are invited to attend in an effort to spur collaboration and maintain previously established relationships,” Perrucci said of the event. “There is in-person and virtual collaborations among students from different countries and cultures. HAN University also provided jump-start courses with members of the university to acquaint us with Dutch language and culture.”

Perrucci said he had the opportunity to discuss research and other topics with faculty and students from around the world.

“One rewarding set of conversations focused on housing relocation and recoveries after disaster events — my research specialty — with researchers from the United States at ECU, the Netherlands at HAN University and Japan at Kindai University,” he said. “In addition, there were conversations on virtual integration of ECU students with HAN students to broaden the scope of current in-person collaborations and discussions regarding the activities of the upcoming HAN University visit to ECU.”

Perrucci said a visit to Oosterscheldekering, an eastern storm surge barrier in the Netherlands, highlighted the trip.

“This once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for ECU students provided a real-world example of a construction and engineering masterpiece that inspires projects around the globe,” he said.

For Haithcox, a senior from the western North Carolina town of Lenoir, he couldn’t pass on an opportunity to visit a foreign country.

“I wanted to be able to explore parts of the world where I have never been,” he said.

Dr. Daniel Perrucci, right, assistant professor in ECU’s Department of Construction Management, and students Jalene Camey, Stavros Boardman and Carson Haithcox, sit in on a class during HAN University’s International Week in the Netherlands.

Though Haithcox said some of the presentations at the university mirrored what he had already learned at ECU, he enjoyed learning about Dutch culture.

“I really enjoyed walking through the streets of Arnhem and was delighted to hear a lot of songs that are on my own playlists, like the Eagles, Steely Dan and Marshall Tucker Band,” he said. “… I was surprised by the level of English they were able to speak. This allowed for conversations to go deeper than I had planned.”

Camey, a senior from Durham, said that some students in the Netherlands begin college at age 16 surprised her.

“They are passionate about school,” she said. “(I enjoyed) seeing all the students working on projects hands-on and how they work together as teams.”

She said the passion for sustainability in the Netherlands stood out for her.

“Sustainability is huge in the Netherlands,” Camey said. “Recycling is a major thing after being done with items. Plastic bags or plastic bottles and glass bottles have a small fee when purchased. I also learned how they use certain building methods, try to teach students new techniques and technology, and try to include sustainability.”

Of course, she learned other lessons as well.

“I also learned that coffee and espresso are everywhere,” Camey said. “They have espresso machines in schools, restaurants and even at bars!”

She said she enjoyed exploring the city of Arnhem, looking at the architecture and designs of the buildings and learning about why they were constructed the way they were. Camey particularly enjoyed a tour of the Johan Cruyff Arena, home to the Amsterdamsche Football Club known as Ajax.

She said she felt honored to be invited to go on the trip.

“Accepting this invitation from HAN University was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that allowed me to integrate into another culture, attend my first conference and explore international construction management methods to enhance my education at ECU,” Camey said. “… It’s a new look at things that we might not experience here in the States.”

Perrucci said the trip was made in anticipation of an ECU study abroad experience that is being planned for the summer of 2024. A study abroad team from HAN’s Built Environment program is scheduled to visit ECU in October to explore and learn about various aspects of construction in the United States.

From left, Carson Haithcox, Stavros Boardman and Jalene Camey, stand with Dr. Daniel Perrucci, assistant professor in ECU’s Department of Construction Management, at HAN University in the Netherlands.