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Green City: New Foreign Study Program in Berlin Brings Sustainable Engineering to Life

Jun 04, 2023   |   Dartmouth Engineer

"One crucial piece of a successful liberal arts education is the ability to speak and interact in a foreign language and to study foreign languages and cultures abroad," says Thayer Professor Petra Bonfert-Taylor.

A tour of the city of Bonn, the capital of Germany from 1945 to 1990, includes the University of Bonn (yellow building), the birthplace of composer Beethoven, and the Haribo gummy factory. (Photo by Jordan Koehler '23)

Engineering students, however, often find it difficult to step away from the demanding curriculum to participate in a study-abroad program while at Dartmouth. The solution: the joint German studies-engineering foreign study program (FSP) "Green City, Sustainable Engineering in Berlin." Says Bonfert-Taylor: "It invites students to explore one of the most innovative and pressing topics of their primary field—'green' and sustainable engineering—while enabling them to satisfy their language requirement in an environment in which sustainability is a lived practice." 

The spring program launched last year with Bonfert-Taylor and Petra McGillen, German studies professor, leading 17 students through a combination of coursework in sustainable engineering and German language and culture studies. "The FSP showed me all the ways sustainable engineering can be simply implemented yet drastically shape the way a city is run," says engineering sciences major Jordan Koehler '23.

"Our program takes interdisciplinary learning to a new level, as it gives students the opportunity to explore a central engineering concept through the medium of the German language and culture," says Professor McGillen (above left). (Photo courtesy of Petra Bonfert-Taylor)

Students tour Bagger 1452 (left), a decommissioned excavator used in lignite (brown coal) mining, in Hagenwerder. "We got to climb all over the 75-meter-long monstrosity and learned from a former operator about the process and the profession, which used to be highly regarded," says Bonfert-Taylor. Gardens (right) are in bloom at Potsdam's Sanssouci Palace, the summer palace of Prussian King Frederick the Great. (Left photo courtesy of Petra Bonfert-Taylor; right photo by Jordan Koehler '23)

Students tour Wasserwerks Beelitzhof (left), one of nine water plants in the city of Berlin. The plant manages the cleaning and distribution of water for much of the western side of the city, making it an ideal site to learn about urban planning and management. (Left photo by Jordan Koehler '23; right photo courtesy of Petra Bonfert-Taylor)

The founder of the Kiezboten Projekt (left), a startup developing electric-powered mail-delivery bikes with the goal of reducing carbon emissions, explains his design. A rooftop solar farm (right) helps power Freie University, a partner school for the FSP. (Photos by Jordan Koehler '23)

Students enjoy a boat tour in Cologne (left), and a visit to the Schloss Drachenburg in Königswinter (right), along the bank of the Rhine River. (Left photo courtesy of Petra Bonfert-Taylor; right photo by Jordan Koehler '23)

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