Montana State University

MSU student studies architecture, language and literature in Germany

October 13, 2004 -- By Jean Arthur, MSU News Service

Veronica Schreibeis, Montana State University senior, studies language and architecture in Tuebingen, Germany. (Photo courtesy of Veronica Schreibeis.)   High-Res Available

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Bozeman--Amid castles and canals, Montana State University senior Veronica Schreibeis studies architecture and languages in Tuebingen, Germany. She is one of about 200 MSU students studying abroad this year.

Thanks to an $8,000 fellowship from the German Academic Exchange Service, the 21-year-old Laramie, Wyo. native explores German culture while discovering revolutionary design innovations.

"I have chosen Europe because of the rich history of the development of Western architecture, and Germany specifically because of its history of using architecture as a means to rebuild the Germans' nation and communicate their identity," Schreibeis wrote in an e-mail. "And, I chose to study here because Germany is a leader in sustainable and environmentally conscientious designs."

Schreibeis is one of 56 undergraduate students from 46 U.S. and Canadian universities selected for the scholarship. The German Academic Exchange Service is the largest international exchange organization in the world, supporting nearly 75,000 people each year, according to a press release from the German organization.

"Veronica is very focused, articulate and interested in her subjects," said Mike Myers, head of MSU's modern languages and literature department. "Many of our students who go abroad, have a purpose--business majors, chemical engineering majors, history majors, who, like Veronica, look for cultural nuances to enhance their education."

Schreibeis works on two undergraduate degrees--environmental design and German--and a graduate degree in architecture through courses at Eberhard Karls Universitaet Tuebingen. She integrates independent studies from MSU's architecture program into her German routine.

"I have selected exemplary contemporary architectural works from the last decade that are influencing the field today," she said. "I visit sites to observe and analyze the structure, material and building type. I sketch, paint, photograph and write journal entries about my experience."

In Tuebingen she studies near a 1,000-year old castle, now the university museum. The student town is south of Stuttgart near the Black Forest. For Schreibeis, Germany is also an exploration of her ancestral home.

"Unfortunately, most of the German traditions and language from my heritage were lost during the world wars, with the exception of my last name, Schreibeis, which is quite German," she said. "The language is my biggest struggle. I am participating in an intensive language program and am really enjoying the challenge."

She said that she makes language mistakes and embarrasses herself daily, yet "I have to laugh at myself, learn from it, and keep taking the risk of messing up again."

It's Schreibeis' sense of adventure and risk-taking that helped her succeed.

"Vernonica approaches problems from a radical point of view," said Ralph Johnson, acting architecture department head at MSU. "For example, she recently entered a competition about energy-efficient designs. Her solution was to grow ocotillo plants on the south side of her building for shade, so she used nature rather than technology to solve a problem. She doesn't follow a normative approach to her work."

"I believe that architecture should be progressive," Schreibeis said. "By progressive, I mean the profession should constantly search for new technologies and materials or better applications of existing ones. Correspondingly, an international array of locations is valid to study architecture."

Language immersion and architectural excursions offer benefits that she recognizes cannot be obtained solely in a classroom. She hopes to work internationally some day and plans on completing some of her architecture internship abroad.

"There is no doubt that my language skills, experience, and education will facilitate this goal, but also the perspectives and understanding I will obtain from being an international student will help me communicate with clients on an everyday basis."