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International Students

International Students

APLA has always had students who hailed from outside the U.S., but the growth of our graduate programs since 2000 has turned the trickle into a steady steam. It’s now a rare day that a visit to Dudley Hall does not include overhearing hearing two or three languages (not counting “Southern”). When paired with our emphasis for collaborative learning, this infusion of global culture inside APLA enriches the learning experience of all our students.

The profiles that follow give just a sampling of the diversity you will find in our classrooms. We’re always working to expand awareness of the quality of our programs–graduate and undergraduate. These efforts will ensure that all our students begin their professional path in a setting as rich and diverse as the world that awaits them beyond campus.

Asmaa BenbabaAsmaa Benbaba, a first year Community Planning student from Morocco, has a background in sociology and cultural studies. She decided to study at Auburn’s Community Planning program because of the diverse nature of the program. As she explains, “The Community Planning Program is a very rich program at Auburn University; also important about the program is its multifaceted nature, a reason that enticed me to apply.”

Asmaa was impressed with the fact that the Community Planning Program at Auburn allows her to work with real-life clients and complete tangible plans that are actually used by the community. She notes, “The Community Planning Program at Auburn University grants me a chance to substantiate tangible plans for the community together with keeping and drawing upon my background in sociology and cultural studies.”

She also appreciates the fact that she has the opportunity to make different types of plans, at scales ranging from the neighborhood to the region. She explains, “As an international student, this program gives me this opportunity to learn to make good plans either urban or regional.”

To add to the practical experience that she gets from her classes at Auburn, Asmaa is working as a graduate research assistant for Dr. Rebecca Retzlaff. She is currently working on a research paper on the San Francisco Urban Design Plan, and a grant project to document the experiences of African American women in planning and design.

Asmaa notes that her research assistantship was a big reason for choosing to study at Auburn, “The biggest incentive for me as a Moroccan student is the assistantship I am offered to complete this program. War Eagle!”

Juan Diego DonosoJuan Diego Donoso, a second year Community Planning student from Quito Ecuador, is currently studying at the Urban Studio. He has a background in architecture and has worked in several offices on residential, institutional, and urban design projects. From 2009 until 2011, Juan Diego was an adjunct professor in the School of Architecture in San Francisco University of Quito.  He decided to study community planning at Auburn because of the mix of social, economic, and physical aspects that are covered in the program, and because of the reputation of the urban and rural studios. He explains, “I have always been interested in the mix of architecture and social facts, and since Auburn University has the Rural Studio, I thought that the Master in Community Planning with the option of doing the second year at the Urban Studio would be a really interesting approach and allow me the opportunity of doing planning for communities with economic and social problems. I also thought that this kind of planning could have a more direct relationship with the reality of my country.”

As a student at the Urban Studio, Juan Diego has been able to experience city planning in a big city firsthand. He explains, “The best experience I have had with Auburn University has been the opportunity to come to the Urban Studio and be part of this amazing city such as Birmingham. The city is a perfect place to learn about community planning because there is so much going on in the city right now. Birmingham is a perfect learning lab for our studies.”

After he graduates, he plans to either work in the U.S. for a while, or return to Ecuador. Juan Diego explains, “If I find an interesting job, I will probably stay one more year in the U.S. I would like to work in a big city such as New York, San Francisco, or Chicago. I may stay in the South if I find a really interesting proposal. If not, I will be back to Ecuador to teach and start my own projects. Right now in Ecuador there are a lot of opportunities to work as a planner or as an architect. Because it is a developing country, opportunities are everywhere

Wei GuoWei Guo is from Beijing, China, where he studied ”ornamental horticulture" at the famous Beijing Forestry University. After graduating, he worked for two landscape firms, one in China and another with offices in Beijing and New Jersey. When Wei came to Auburn, he soon found out about the MLA Rome Studio and decided to participate. Highlights of the trip to Rome were his encounter with Roman history and classical architecture;  he was particularly taken with the energy of the modern city. “It is a very active city,” he said, “And it is full of travelers, which means there are lots of people on the streets day and night.”

Wei is also very fond of Auburn. “It is very friendly here,” he said, “And it has a great environment. The landscape program is quite different from those in China, where landscape architecture is more closely allied with garden design. Here it is much broader in scope and very involved with a wide range of urban and rural conditions.”

When he finishes his degree, Wei hopes to find a job in the United States. His dream job would be as a landscape designer in a medium-sized firm in a big city such as Los Angeles, Miami or New York.Sylvia Barnett

Sylvia Barnett hails from Auckland, New Zealand. She says that she enjoys the quintessential small-town character of Auburn—it is a quiet environment where she can concentrate on the hard work that students have to put in to succeed in the intense MLA program. Like Wei, and most international MLA students, Sylvia is developing a portfolio of her work in order to land a job in a U.S. firm. She wants to work on the West Coast and is hoping for placement in an experimental design-based company.  Read more about Sylvia's experience with the Master of Landscape Architecture Rome Study Abroad story:

Jack Mok

Jack Mok, a  fourth year architecture student, grew up in Hong Kong and went to high school in Rome, Georgia for three years. Jack was interested in a professional degree, and he chose Auburn for its architecture program after seeing all of the drawings on the walls of Dudley Hall.

Although he didn’t know anything about architecture, he quickly learned the basics in his studio classes. Jack admits, “I came into Auburn without knowing anything about architecture. I knew what concrete is, but it didn’t know how to use it. I didn’t know how materials give different feelings to people who actually use the building.”

The more he learns about architecture the more it interests him.  Jack says, “I like it more and more. It’s so much more interesting than what I expected. One thing that I really learned is to read—just to see what people do, some subtle things that they do.” 

After graduation Jack would like to work and get his license in the U.S. before considering graduate school. He says, “It would be nice if I go to New York, Boston. I kind of like Washington state, maybe California. I’ll go wherever opportunity takes me.”

Yitao WangYitao Wang, a  fourth year architecture student, is from Dalian, China, a coastal city that is well-known for tourism.  He studied architecture for one year in China and says, “During that time, I figured that I wanted to be an architect. Therefore, I decided to study abroad.”

Yitao researched many accredited architecture programs in the U.S. and was impressed by Auburn’s high ranking and the longevity of the program. He notes that schools in the U.S. have a longer history of architecture education than in China.

Yitao, who transferred into the architecture program through summer option, enjoys living and studying in Auburn. “Faculty and staff provide a great environment for studying. I feel very comfortable on and off campus.”

Yitao recently completed the design of an urban hospital in Boston.  A jury of professionals noted his design for its clear public space and provocative drawings.  After graduation, he plans to apply to graduate school, and would like to get licensed in the U.S. before returning to work closer to home. He has already worked in Los Angeles and adds, “I also love driving and traveling, and I like American lifestyles.”

Ruben Quesada

Ruben Quesada, a  fourth year architecture student, was born and raised in San Jose, Costa Rica, and transferred to a U.S. high school in 2005. He comes from a family of architects with ties to the Southeast. “I have had a big interest in architecture because of my father. He graduated from University of Florida’s College of Architecture back in the sixties and went back to Costa Rica to start his own architecture firm,” Ruben explains.

Ruben was interested in Auburn’s architecture program because of its size. He says,I wanted to be in a big public school with a great architecture program. After visiting Auburn, I loved the town and the atmosphere.”He is also involved in several campus organizations, including serving as secretary for Auburn’s International Student Organization, treasurer for the Student Council of the College of Architecture Design and Construction, vice-president of the Latino Association of Students, and rush chairman for Delta Tau Delta fraternity. Despite his busy extracurricular schedule, he is dedicated to academics and recently won an honorable mention for his design of an urban hospital in Boston. 

After he graduates from Auburn, Ruben would like to attend graduate school in Europe. He says, “ I don’t think I want to go back home to Costa Rica until I start a family, but for now I want to travel and work in different places around the world.”

Taiwei Wang

Taiwei Wang, a fourth year architecture and interior architecture student, is from the city of Mudanjiang, Heilongjiang province, in the extreme northeast of China. When Taiwei first came to the U.S. in 2006, he was interested in studying business. He explains, “Two basic design courses that I took in community college helped me to find out what I really wanted to do.” His professor suggested Auburn’s architecture program.

Taiwei says, “The reason I applied to Auburn was because the architecture program has such a long history and is complex enough to give me all the experiences that I need from school—such as Rural Studio and third year study abroad.”

Starting Summer Option in 2010, Taiwei has spent a semester at Auburn’s Rural Studio and a semester in Rome. Taiwai was a member of the team that won first place in the 2012 National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) student design competition.  Taiwei is currently completing degrees in Architecture and Interior Architecture, and after graduation he plans to work in the U.S. until he is a licensed architect.