I am proud to introduce myself as the winner of the DCI and HDG’s 2014 European Travel Scholarship! But who am I? Well, the travel bug bit this 25 year old when I was a little girl, and since then, I’ve taken every opportunity that came my way to explore. When I was young, my family used to drive between North Carolina and our hometown in New Hampshire. Every time we crossed one of the magnificent bridges, I would be found glued to the window wondering in amazement at the mighty steel creations carrying us over the water. As a freshman in high school my French class visited France and Spain, and as we wandered through the overwhelmingly elaborate castles, I would run my hands along the cold, smooth columns imagining who constructed them. While at Cornell for my undergraduate degree, I spent an enlightening 18 weeks in Jessore, Bangladesh working with mud and bamboo architecture native to the area. The travel bug did not end with Bangladesh. When I saw the announcement for this scholarship while in graduate school at the University of Washington (UW), I knew I had to make a video entry.
Taking a pit stop in Montana.
Words cannot describe the emotions I felt when DCI and HDG walked into my research meeting with cameras and watched as a delightful man dressed in costume read the announcement poem. At first I refused to believe I had won, but when he said my name, I felt as giddy as a kid who had spotted Santa for the first time. I was deep in the midst of thesis writing and corrections, and this award was the brightest shining light at the end of the tunnel. Now, in just a few days, I will embark on this adventure filled three weeks in Europe; admiring the ancient beauty and strength of the Pantheon in Rome; the regal architectural intricacies of the Duomo in Florence; investigating the intriguing mystery within the Louvre in Paris; taking shelter under the massive undulating roof at the first covered market in Barcelona – the Santa Caterina Market; and discovering the many other hidden architectural gems in each city.
My journey to Europe has in a way already begun. I have just graduated from the UW with my Master of Science degree in Civil Engineering. With enthusiasm and an uncontrollable smile, I pressed the button to electronically submit my thesis titled, “Seismic Evaluation of Bolted Connections in Non-Seismic Concentrically Braced Frames.” This document was composed of a year and a half of sleepless nights spent toiling away to design, build, test, and analyze the results from five single-bay, single-story steel braced frame experiments. It was the most challenging academic endeavor thus far in my life and I can’t think of a better reward than this blogging voyage in Europe!
After submitting my thesis, my mom and I packed my little Toyota Corolla with everything from my Seattle life would fit. The back seat was made extra comfortable for my sweet 6-month old puppy, Indie. Together, the three of us began an exciting trek to explore the northern part of our country from Seattle to North Carolina. Thus far we have been captivated by the abundance of trees coating the steep mountains in northern Idaho, and pondered at what life would be like in the modest log cabins by the crystal clear lakes nestled at the base of those mountains. We met a friendly rancher couple who sent us on a scenic detour through the countryside of southern Montana where we could stretch our legs in the sunshine and traipse through fields with Indie; a very satisfied puppy. We camped in the charming town of Dillon, Montana where my grandmother spent her summers growing up and where the nearly full moon shone so bright there was no need for a lantern. Our most recent day consisted of shock and awe at the majesty of the bison in Yellowstone and the deep gorges with wild rivers flowing through Bighorn National Forest. I can’t wait to see what comes next!
This cross-country adventure ends in Charlotte, NC when I board a plane to begin navigating the myriad of wonders Europe has to offer. Stay tuned!