Building a Future Abroad: What Students Should Know About International Construction Projects

Building a Future Abroad: What Students Should Know About
International Construction Projects

Study abroad has often been associated with degrees like liberal arts or sciences, but in recent years, construction management and architecture programs have developed more opportunities for their students to learn more across the world. Colleges like Penn State, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and Kent State University have all implemented study-abroad programs for those in construction management and architecture, providing vital intercultural contact with other ways of building homes and businesses.

These exciting opportunities represent a great way for students to get more hands-on experience, but it’s important to consider both the benefits and challenges of studying abroad for construction students. Today, we will consider the facets involved in these programs so that you’re ready to make the right choice for you and your career path. 

Photo from The GREEN Program that runs at Nepal on Microgrid Systems for Rural Development! Check the program here!

Double-Check That Your Experience Will Count When Returning Home

The end goal of taking a construction program is to become a general contractor, but the requirements for this differ greatly between states. Some places, like Florida, require four years of experience, but only three years of a construction degree will count toward your time. In other places, like New Mexico, you need either 4 years or 8,000 hours of experience to become a general contractor, not all of which can be satisfied by a degree program.

As such, if you are getting practical experience in the field while studying abroad, you must check with your program if this will be able to be counted toward your licensing requirements. They should be able to clarify for you how to document this experience so that it can be used when you apply to become a general contractor. 

Consider the Real Impact of Your Work on Communities

It’s easy to get caught up in the joy of helping others, especially with the rise of “voluntourism.” These are programs where you gain real-world experience in developing nations by assisting with construction projects, such as drilling wells, building schools, and assisting with vital infrastructure development.

However, it’s possible that your project will be doing more harm than good, despite that this was never the intention when you signed up for the course. Most specifically, bringing in construction students from abroad can harm job prospects for local contractors, and they may even necessitate more work from local builders, who must fix mistakes made by students rather than complete new projects for pay.

This is not to say that every study abroad experience can do harm – far from it. In fact, you can gain valuable experience while also assisting others, as long as the program is structured in a way that benefits everyone involved. A program run by a reputable university or study-abroad program will have been thoroughly assessed to ensure that it provides value to the local community while also offering students essential training in their given field. 

A group of volunteers, consisting of young men and women, are working together to lift and carry a large wooden panel. They are in an outdoor setting, surrounded by partially constructed brick walls and simple structures. The sky is partly cloudy, and the scene suggests a construction or community improvement project. This photo is from API (Academic Programs International) Volunteer Abroad Programs in Argentina.

Photo from API (Academic Programs International) Volunteer Abroad Programs in Argentina. Click here to check the program!

Remember That the Licensing Exam May Have Different Specifications Than What You Learned Abroad

While studying abroad can be a wonderful way to broaden your horizons and better understand the principles of construction, the municipality where you practice will not necessarily have the same standards as the one where you intend to take your licensing exam after you graduate from your program. 

For example, if you study abroad in the Czech Republic, you will learn about the Eurocodes, a standardized set of codes that clarify things like how to build earthquake-proof homes and the application of different materials. While many aspects of the Eurocodes can be applied to other markets, there will be specific regulations that only apply in your given state.

To avoid getting confused, you’ll need to reevaluate the standards for the state where you are applying for a license. Remember that while much of the theoretical knowledge you’ve gained can be used anywhere, legal and financial documentation is more localized. This is why it’s helpful to take an exam prep course in the lead-up to your licensing exam that is specialized for your state, such as a New Mexico contractor license test prep course. 

Check That the Study Abroad Company Is Legitimate

If you are enrolled in a construction course at a university, they will have their preferred study-abroad vendors to work with. Because of this pre-existing relationship, transferring your credits and work experience back to your home university will be much easier. However, if your university doesn’t offer a study-abroad program itself, it’s essential that you carefully review the qualifications of the company and do not just believe everything they say. 

Studying abroad can be a fantastic experience for aspiring contractors, helping them better understand their chosen field and how it functions across the world. In some instances, it can also provide tremendous value to local communities. However, it’s important that you assess the quality of the program, the information you will be learning, and the transferability of both credits and skills. With research and careful consideration, you can find yourself packing your hard hat and steel-toed boots for a brand new adventure abroad.

The post Building a Future Abroad: What Students Should Know About International Construction Projects first appeared on Abroad101 Blog.

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