Carnegie Mellon University

Chukwuma in London

July 13, 2017

Constructing an International Experience: London

From a young age, Obianozo Chukwuma wanted to be an architect—that is, until a trip to France changed her mind.

After visiting the Eiffel Tower and learning about its famous lattice design, Chukwuma became fascinated by the role engineers played in creating this landmark and the other structures she admired. “That was when I decided I wanted to be a civil engineer,” she recalls.

Today a junior Chukwuma is now on another trip to Europe. This time, she’s spending the Spring 2017 semester in London.

“I always knew I wanted to study abroad,” she says. “I thought it’d be exciting to go to a university in a new country with all new people and essentially re-dive into everything.”

To achieve this goal, Chukwuma worked closely with Andrea Francioni Rooney, CEE’s director of undergraduate programs, to schedule her trip around her required courses. From there, the University’s Study Abroad Coordinator helped her finalize her plans and paperwork.

In January 2017, after a year of planning, Chukwuma flew to London, where her courses include one on urban planning, the area she wants to focus on for her career and graduate studies.

From learning the nuances of cross-cultural communication to weekend trips throughout Europe, Chukwuma describes studying abroad as amazing. Of course, however, she’s also encountered her share of challenges.

“I’ve gotten a lot better at not stressing when things go wrong. It’s taught me to relax and figure it out,” she says. “It’s also made me more independent. If I want to get something done, I have to motivate myself because no one’s here telling me to do it.”

For example, while applying to internships from London, she’s had to be proactive and diligent in connecting with US employers, knowing she wouldn’t meet any potential employers in person. As she’s done so, CEE faculty and staff have provided valuable support.

“From internships to scholarship applications, they are really helpful. I always go to them for references and know exactly who to go to for what.” says Chukwuma, who recently secured a Civil Engineering Intern position at WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff.

Despite enjoying London, Chukwuma looks forward to spending her senior year back in Pittsburgh, where she’s built strong friendships and participates in groups like the American Society of Civil Engineers and the National Society of Black Engineers.

“Right now, I’m in this great city and I get to travel whenever I want, but I miss CMU too,” she admits. “The community is what I enjoy most about CEE. We have this really tight knit group of people that you go through all your classes with. I think a lot of other schools, or even departments, don’t have that.”