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Special Programs + Residencies

Discover architecture through study abroad programs, professional residencies and internships, and student organizations

Student drawing outside on a study abroad trip

Experiential learning offers students valuable, hands-on opportunities to apply classroom knowledge in real-world contexts through special programs such as study abroad, internships, and student organizations. These experiences not only enrich students' skill sets but also broaden their cultural horizons and promote personal and professional development. By integrating these offerings into their education, students are better prepared to succeed in their chosen careers and lead purposeful and fulfilling lives.

Study Abroad Programs

Virginia Tech offers many study abroad programs for students to learn in different places around the world. 

Search Virginia Tech’s Study Abroad and International Exchange Programs by program and major.

The Architecture Travel Program is a semester-long study abroad for architecture students led by Virginia Tech faculty. Organized travel will occur from late August - late October. 4 weeks of online class will follow the travel portion of the program.

A study, research agenda and travel itinerary are prepared prior to the academic session, emphasizing various issues in design, urban studies, architecture, and allied disciplines in the arts. The travel program has approximately 7-8 weeks of organized travel. Students participate in a pre-departure research project and normally add two or more weeks of independent travel before returning home. Courses in Design, History + Theory and Culture Study are offered. 

Each fall semester, approx. 25-40 undergraduate and graduate architecture and design students participate in the Europe Study Abroad Travel Program.

Each fall and spring semester, approximately 16 undergraduate and graduate architecture students enroll in Europe Studio, a residency program at Virginia Tech's Steger Center for International Scholarship at the Villa Maderni in Riva San Vitale, Switzerland. The center offers extensive library resources, well-equipped lecture rooms, studios, room and board accommodations, and extensive private surrounding gardens. Students access unique urban and rural, contemporary and historical ways of life and their built environments, and take short trips into Italy, France, Austria, Germany, and surrounding areas in Switzerland. 

Architects, designers and patrons of international scope are important collaborators to each Europe Studio program. On-site visits of significant projects, interviews with and presentations by well-known professionals, and participation with important international exhibitions of art and culture are indispensable resources provided by each program. Emphasis will continue to focus on human settlement documentation and design opportunities developed through student interests and individual areas of research in architecture and the allied arts. Courses in Design, History/Theory and Culture Study are offered each semester.

For more information on the Steger Center for International Scholarship, please visit

Located in historic Alexandria, VA, less than eight miles from Washington, DC, the WAAC offers a unique professional learning environment with an interdisciplinary, international, individual focus. Our pedagogy emphasizes freedom and responsibility as partners in ethical design practice.

Students have the freedom to choose their own studio and thesis projects, then take on the responsibility to realize those projects. We inspire students to chart their own career paths and become the architects or urban designers they want to become.

The WAAC thrives as a unique learning environment, drawing students from schools around the country and the world for graduate study or undergraduate study-away, in addition to students and faculty from Virginia Tech. The WAAC is a member of the National Student Exchange, which means that design students from across the country can spend a semester or year at the WAAC. 

For more information, please visit Washington Alexandria Architecture Center (WAAC).

The History And Theory of Architecture Rome Program offers an opportunity to live and study in Rome for a month in the summer in apartments in Trastevere and in classrooms in Campo Dei Fiori in the center of the city. There, students study the history of the city across its 2700 year history in a chronological sequence of guided walks to sketch, photograph the city's varied architecture and to learn about the complex religious, social, political, ideological, cultural, and historical dimensions of the city. The program includes a contemporary study of architectural theory taught by the program leader, Professor Joseph Bedford, and a team of guest lecturers from all over the world who will present lectures, seminars and walking tours to further expand upon the theoretical dimensions of architecture. The past and the present, history and theory, work and leisure, study and experience, will intersect in a powerful and complimentary manner during your four week stay in the Eternal City.

The Site of Rome is unique for containing preserved extant examples of architectural monuments from every epoch of Western history: From ancient monuments such as the Pantheon, to early Christian churches of the 7th century, to medieval castles, Renaissance Palazzi, Baroque Fountains and Piazzas to 19th century nationalist monuments, the modern architecture of Fascist Italy and the contemporary urban condition of the city today. Arguably, no other single location on earth affords the student the opportunity to explore the entire scope of architectural history in one place and to visit in the morning the exact same buildings that are being described in the lecture hall in the afternoon.

For more information, please visit History & Theory in Rome.

The five-week program, normally held each year in the month of July at the 16th century Chateau Fontainebleau, a UNESCO world heritage site located a short distance southeast of Paris, allows students of architecture from around the world to collaborate with music students, exploring a general theme through a series of studios, workshops, lectures, and excursions. Formal art disciplines such as drawing, watercolor, graphic design, and theater design are typically practiced during the session. Student housing and restaurants are in the town of Fontainebleau, surrounded by one of the most beautiful forests in France.

In 2004, alumnus Robert Turner established a biennial scholarship enabling a student from the School of Architecture and School of Design to participate in the summer architecture program at the Fontainebleau Schools. The scholarship is now awarded annually to a student selected by the faculty of the School of Architecture. Once chosen, the student will then apply to the program, which selects 15-25 students worldwide. Selection criteria are based on application materials, portfolio works and references. Upon acceptance, the student will receive a scholarship covering tuition, travel, and incidentals. 

For more detailed information on the program, please visit Fontainebleau Schools.

Virginia Tech has developed a number of bi-lateral exchange agreements with foreign universities with schools of architecture across the globe. For example, the School of Architecture at Virginia Tech has a long-standing exchange agreement with the Accademia di Architettura in Mendrisio, Switzerland, widely regarded as one of the foremost schools of architecture in Europe and the world. Studios, or ateliers, are taught by renowned architects. Lectures and critiques by distinguished visiting architects, a full complement of outstanding courses, and a top-level student body combine to make study at the Accademia an unparalleled experience.

Professional Residencies and Internship Programs

Gain practical experience, develop professional skills, and expand your knowledge of architecture through professional residencies and internships that interconnect academia and real-world practice.

Chicago Studio interconnects academia, professional practice, and urban living in Chicago, Illinois. The semester-long curriculum consists of design studio coursework, building design technology seminars, professional practice seminars, and a four-week practicum focused on architectural research. Students engage with practitioners, diverse perspectives, and the multifaceted aspects of urban development, aiming for a well-rounded and practical learning experience. The prerequisite course, Chicago Urbanism, provides background knowledge on city development and influential architectural plans to prepare students for the immersive experience of the program.

A selection of host architectural firms in Chicago provide a direct relation to contemporary practice as well as providing each student their own workstation. For the first twelve weeks, students work in teams of two on their own projects situated in the city. There are assorted interactions, planned and accidental, as practitioners critique student work during formal reviews as well as spontaneously through daily dialogue. From study of the city’s neighborhoods to meetings with practitioners and community leaders, students expand their awareness of the relationship of ethical and social issues to architecture and design in this distinctly American metropolis.

During project development, students come to recognize the suitability of their designs within the context. In addition to reviewing their projects, practitioners illuminate the role of Chicago’s political and business leaders in shaping urban design policy and initiatives towards sustainability. In studying the infrastructure network, students gain insight to understand the context as more than buildings. Practitioners also give presentations on their own projects as well as provide exposure as to how they work with clients and manage the design and construction process. In various and multiple ways, students are able to better develop their leadership, collaboration, negotiation, presentation and listening skills.

Learn more by contacting Chip von Weise, Director (Chicago) or Kathryn Albright, Liaison (Blacksburg).

The Center for Design Research Open Laboratory: Boston is an integrative studio developed by CDR faculty in collaboration with the 2019 AIA Architecture Firm Award recipient, PAYETTE, located in Boston, Massachusetts. Through this experience, students expand what is possible in the design practice through a functional collaboration between academia, industry, and practice.

The Open Laboratory-Boston places students face-to-face with real-world design challenges and provides them with the tools that will drive the future of architecture, engineering, and construction. Students interact with over 160 interdisciplinary design professionals through an immersive residency in Boston as they undertake a semester-long design research effort based on an industry-driven opportunity for technology development, transfer, or adoption. 

To extend the formal studio and seminars, students are encouraged to take advantage of the intensive extracurricular opportunities offered in the Boston area, including public lectures at Harvard, MIT, and the Boston Society of Architects; as well as excursions to historically significant buildings, current building sites, and contemporary buildings in the region.

The Professional Internship Program offers the opportunity for 4th-year undergraduate architecture students to receive academic credit while employed in an architectural practice. 

Students who plan to participate in the Professional Internship Program should seek out firms which agree to provide a sufficient level of mentorship and direct them in their daily activities. Students must make clear to their mentors prior to the internship semester that their engagement should mainly center around the typical professional architectural tasks, such as schematic design, design development, construction documents, bidding and negotiation, permit and construction preparation, construction/contract administration, client contact, and construction site visits. 

All students must receive approval from the Advanced Professional Program Chair before the beginning of the term in which they plan to take part in the Professional Internship Program. Students must have attained a minimum 3.0 overall GPA prior to the Professional Internship Program Semester. Students must engage full time for the entire fall semester in a professional architecture firm or a design practice with equivalent architectural pursuits. Students must be paid by the architectural firm while employed. The place of employment must be located in an environment where students have an opportunity to broaden their understanding of new locale and human settlements, away from familiar hometowns or parental residences. 

At the end of the semester each student will be asked to submit a self-assessment, including a short description of performed tasks structured by week, and a work portfolio [pdf] supporting the descriptions. Students are advised to maintain weekly documentation of their work to demonstrate content comparable to ARCH 4015 (4th year studio). Other course requirements such as Professional Practice or Independent Study can be fulfilled by taking advantage of the professional setting and the study of everyday practices. Other coursework may be arranged with permission of the Advanced Professional Program Chair up to a maximum of 15 credit hours. 

Learn more by contacting the Advanced Professional Program Chair.

Student Organizations

Get involved with student organizations to foster personal growth, enhance social and professional networks, and exercise teamwork skills to succeed against future challenges.

Discover approximately 800 student organizations across Virginia Tech.

The National Professional Fraternity for Architecture and the Allied Arts unites students for the purpose of fellowship, lifelong friendships, and mutual interest in professional development. Open to any undergraduate interested in architecture and related design majors. More info…

The American Institute of Architecture Students (AIAS) is committed to providing opportunities to its members in leadership, professional, educational, and social means. Through the AIAS you will gain networking experience, create bonds with other students both at your school and across the nation, as well as having the chance to serve in a leadership position. We host a wide range of events, held frequently through the semester, for members to attend freely. More info…

The National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) mission is to champion diversity within the design professions by promoting excellence, community engagement, and professional development of its members. More info…

Studio Collective is a design journal initiated by students in the School of Architecture and School of Design, celebrating the work of students with the aim to broaden awareness and conversations about design. 

Studio Collective focuses on student projects amassed from the majors of architecture, graphic design, industrial design, interior design, and landscape architecture. The journal also features in-depth interviews, articles, event coverage, and relevant news in our community. Comprised of students from all majors and walks of life, the Studio Collective team aims to garner love and admiration for the hard work of Virginia Tech’s design disciplines. A new issue is released every semester at various locations around campus. More info…

The Digital Mentorship Collaborative (DMCO) is a collective of students within the School of Architecture and School of Design at Virginia Tech working together to mentor and teach each other about digital tools. 

Each spring semester, students from the DMCO lead week-long digital workshops with the first-year students in the School, and host a visiting practitioner to lead an advanced digital workshop. More info…

Design for America (DFA) is a network of innovators using design thinking skills for local social impact. Developed by a faculty member and her students, DFA shapes the next generation of social innovators. They provide design, social impact, coaching, design education, mentorship, and partnership. More info…

As a student advocacy group, The Architecture Student Forum strives to strengthen the connections and communication between students and faculty, invoking positive change and community building. ASF gives a formal voice to the student body and is open to all undergraduates and graduate Architecture students.