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Maymester 2013 students with Professor Billy Wood

Students attending the 2013 Vienna Maymester with Senior Lecturer Billy Wood.

 

Senior Lecturer Billy Wood, instructor of ME302 and ME210, will be teaching the class entitled Introduction to Engineering Design and Graphics Maymester this summer in Vienna, Austria. A "maymester" is a four-week study-abroad class that starts at the end of May, allowing students to earn traditional class credits as well as the opportunity to live and study in a foreign country. Wood's course is the only maymester offered to engineering students, and the credit is required for all lower-division students in mechanical, civil and aerospace. The classes are only taught in the Mechanical Engineering Department. Wood, an award-winning instructor and recipient of multiple teaching awards, designed and taught his first Maymester in 2003, reinstating the program again in 2010. Since then, he's led a maymester every summer. Enrollment for this year's program has risen from 20 to 30.

The Academic Maymester Experience

Maymester alumni spoke to prospective applicants in the fall. Their enthusiasm for the program, as well as its affordability (about $6,000 all expenses included), led the number of students enrolled to rise by 50% from 2012 to 2013. Wood's class on campus never exceeds 28 students. To accommodate the additional workload, Adriana Teran, a 2011 Vienna Maymester alumna, will accompany Wood as a teaching assistant, grader and travel coordinator. The Vienna Maymester covers the same material as the on-campus course, but is taught in a way that allows students to explore Vienna, and learn the local culture. As preparation for the study-broad experience, all participants take a one-hour seminar during the spring semester. They learn a little German, secure a passport, learn about customs and protocol for the region, find out about the excursions they'll make, and get to know their traveling companions. Students stay in pre-arranged apartments while classes are held in the historic and opulent Palace Corbeli.

A Month of Learning, Traveling and Fun

Even though the maymester students have access to a computer lab, not all needed software is available, necessitating pre loading software onto laptops before leaving Austin. In Vienna, the students attend class Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Most homework is completed in class, freeing students to travel and immerse themselves in European culture the rest of the time. Since daylight lasts until 10 p.m. because Vienna is farther north than Austin, there's ample time after class for sightseeing, shopping, hiking, exploring, trying local restaurants and evening fun. Additionally, every weekend is a three-day weekend, and Wood plans exciting and educational trips and activities as part of the program. Some activities would be of interest to any European tourist, but others are tailored specifically for engineers.

Travel and Activities

Wood's maymesters have proven to be exceedingly popular because the opportunity to travel and explore Europe is an integral part of the program. One of the most interesting trips is an overnight (12 hour) train trip to Geneva, Switzerland to see CERN — the Large Hadron Collider, visit the United Nations and go on an evening cruise on Lake Geneva. There are also weekend excursions to Prague, Czech Republic; Budapest, Hungary; Munich, Germany and Salzburg, Austria. Excursions in Vienna include a Danube River tour, a visit to the Arsenal (a military history museum in Vienna), a tour of the Belvedere (an art history museum) and a tour of Schlumberger Champagne Distillery. On their unscheduled weekends, students may elect to visit the salt mines and ice caves, the site where The Sound of Music was filmed, the opulent Neuschwanstein Castle built by reclusive King Ludwig II of Austria, and Hitler's mountain retreat Kehlsteinhaus given to him on his 50th birthday. All are relatively close to Salzburg and about three hours by train from Vienna.

Looking Forward

Wood writes a blog for each trip so that parents and friends can keep up with all the group's activities. Even though it may sound like the students are having way too much fun, Wood assures us the students work hard, do well and learn as much, maybe even more, than they do in the traditional on-campus course. To date, no one has failed, dropped out or earned an incomplete grade for the class. By now, you're probably scheming about how to go as Wood's assistant on the 2014 trip. He's not said where that will be yet, but keep your eyes open. Wood's maymester may be moving to the Pacific Rim!


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