How Study Abroad Can Lead to a Career in Sustainable Cities

Inspired by my family (of engineers), I have always wanted to build and create. So, when my parents started renovating their house two years before my high school graduation, my path was set towards becoming an architect. Little did I know the opportunities that my experiences  would bring, both from a learning perspective and from a professional one. I’m Silvia Dragomir, and I teach in the Urban Design Program at DIS Copenhagen.

How I became an architect with the goal of teaching and building a resilient future

Of the six years I spent in architecture school, I spent one year in Bordeaux, France, as an exchange student. This is when my eyes were opened towards the bigger scale of the city and city making, and the power a building has as a catalyst for transforming an entire neighborhood. After graduation, and working as an architect for four years, I embarked upon the urban planning journey. This led me to working with climate planning and resilient cities projects in both Denmark and France, and, eventually, to sharing this experience with you – the future of our cities and our built world – while teaching at DIS.

“We are brilliant creative thinkers. We learn better when we are empowered and induced by curiosity.” ⁠— Rosan Bosch

Learning on two wheels: “No matter a human’s personality or the subject being studied, movement enhances cognitive skills and energizes the learning process. The necessity for physical activity during the day is not only a health issue, but it also improves well-being and makes our brain work better and faster.” – Rosan Bosch 

Architecture school was also an eyeopener for the way we learn and develop long-lasting skills. Being born creative thinkers, we learn best when we are doing, when we are active, and when we engage in meaningful experiences with others. This is also the value on which the DIS Exploration Electives are anchored. For instance, during the Integrated Climate Change Planning course that I teach, we use our creative talent to solve problems and ponder solutions for the current climate crisis our cities face.

Changes in our climate require an innovative response to the way we build our urban environments. Reframing the way urban evolution and nature are thought of, this course explores how the holistic integration of blue and green infrastructures, renewable energy, waste management, digital technology, and agriculture in the built environment can provide healthier, more resilient, and smarter cities. An ecological symbiosis between nature, the built form, and society; this new urban paradigm questions whether we can re-cast the city from past and current principles, putting its inhabitants at the forefront.

Experiential learning is a good start in pursuing a career in urban planning

The Integrated Climate Change Planning Exploration Elective is developed through a series of mobile lectures, case studies, design workshops, and field studies, both in Copenhagen, Denmark, and in Bordeaux, France. The close analysis of two complementary cities – one confronted with cloudburst, another threatened by excessive drought – offers a holistic approach to climate action and hopes to cultivate social cohesion and new spatial practices, in addition to putting food on our tables. It is an open invitation to abandon comfortable academic distinctions, further a holistic dialogue, and stimulate the creation of concrete solutions for our cities.

How study abroad can help get you involved in city making

We need to steer away from silo thinking when building our cities. If you want to get involved in city making or simply want to better understand how your city works and what we could do better, studying abroad is a good start! The more diverse our experiences are, the richer our conversations and the more comprehensive and sustainable our solutions. The challenge of studying abroad comes with the great reward of time to explore, and, of course, knowledge and friendships for a lifetime. It was a chance for me to truly find out who I am professionally and as a person and it is still guiding my career path today. I am very grateful to have the opportunity to share my experience with my students, as well as the challenge of building a roadmap of solutions for resilient cities.     

Dream big and work hard!

Using the city as a classroom

Silvia Dragomir is an architect and advocate of Cities for People, and holds an MSc in Sustainable Urban Planning from Aalborg University and an MSc in Architecture from Bucharest and Bordeaux. Her professional profile includes a collaboration with KANT architects, and being the owner of an architecture studio with focus on sustainability, climate change adaptation, and mitigation. Her passion is sharing knowledge and creating better living environments. Silvia has been with DIS since 2015.   

Read Silvia’s last piece:

>> Cities for Healthy People

Explore Silvia’s courses:

>> Sustainable Development

>> Integrated Climate Change Planning

>> Getting There

Learn more:

>> Faculty Spotlights

>> Learn more about DIS

Leave a Reply