FAQ and Q&A

This page provides logistical and other pertinent course information geared to help you better understand the Sustainable Policy Making and Planning in Europe course, and whether or not it might be right for you. If you do not find all of the answers to your questions below, please use the form at the bottom to submit questions to us and we will get back to you promptly (and post the answers here for the benefit of others).

What does the program cost?

The program fee, which we estimate will be $4,150, covers accommodations; most meals; transportation costs within Europe; tours and site visits that are officially part of the program; CISI travel insurance; and administrative costs.

In addition, students will be charged summer tuition, and are expected to cover their travel to and from Europe and other (individual) expenses. A very rough estimate is:

  • Program fee – $4,150
  • Tuition fees ~ $1,153 to $7,148*
  • Round trip airline ticket ~ $700 to $1,500
  • Passport and visa fees ~ $0 to $110**
  • Books and supplies ~ $50
  • Personal expenses ~ $400***

* Depending on registration for 3 or 6 credits, grad or undergrad and whether or not a VA resident. Subject to Registrar’s Office policies.

** Depending on citizenship and whether or not you already have a valid passport.

*** Depending on individual travel (outside course), souvenirs, and other items.

Education abroad financial aid may be available. Virginia Tech students should contact the Global Education Office for more information (www.educationabroad.vt.edu).

How do I apply?

All applications must be submitted through the Virginia Tech Global Education Office’s portal. Go to ‘outgoing students’ and then search for ‘sustainable policy making in Europe.’  Their system manages the initial application process, and the collection of necessary forms and other information if accepted. This link may take you directly to the course, but it does not always work:


Will we stay at the Ritz-Carlton? Eat in Michelin-stared restaurants?

Easy answer – no. However, we work hard to find clean, safe and convenient places to stay in each city, even if not always the fanciest. Expect shared accommodations, ranging from hostels to a couple of nice hotels. Many of our meals will be communal, while we will give you stipends to go off in small groups for others.

When will this trip take place?

After meeting in Prague on May 27th, the group will start in the city of Ostrava, Czech Republic, examining a challenging case study that involves environmental, economic and cultural dimensions. The group will then head to Budapest, Hungary and visit a couple of organizations to get a sense of how environmental policy is shaping an expanding Europe, the roles of civil society, and learn about Europe’s ‘refugee crisis’. The next stop will be Venice, Italy, with a focus on the multi-billion dollar MOSE project constructed to tackle acute flooding. We will also talk about the flood of tourist that inundate Venice, and what is being done to maintain a vibrant yet livable city. Virginia Tech’s Steger Center in Riva San Vitale (Ticcino), Switzerland will be the next stop, serving as a base for exploring sustainability in that region. In Strasbourg, France the group will visit the European Parliament and meet with local policymakers to discuss sustainable transport. The last stop will be Freiburg, Germany to examine its state-of-the-art cycling, walking, and public transport infrastructure. The course ends in Freiburg in the morning of 16th of June, 2018.

How many credits will I get?

While subject to change, the current plan is to offer both three and six credit versions of the course to serve both those who would like to save money on tuition and those looking to maximize the credits gained. Six credit students will have some extra assignments; in particular, the final assignment–which may be completed after the trip–is more substantial for six credit students.

Who may apply? How will selection take place?

The course is targeted towards undergraduate and graduate students in good standing at Virginia Tech and the University of Virginia. There are no prerequisites, but the selection process will take academic standing and disciplinary records into account. Depending on interest, there may also be an interview process for applicants. Students from other universities may be able to cross-register but should contact us on an individual basis to discuss.

Will we spend most of our time in a classroom? Sightseeing?

This highly interactive program involves some classroom time, but more experiential learning in the field. For example, we will spend a couple of days in Freiburg, Germany, which is one of that country’s most sustainable cities. We will focus on transport planning and visit sustainable neighborhoods as well as transport planners, transit planners, and bike planners. We will also do a bike tour to both experience the cycling infrastructure and see some of their energy-efficient buildings. So, you will see sights, but the focus is on the content of the course. The same will be true in the other cities we visit. There will certainly be some time for sightseeing but expect a packed agenda. Participants can, of course, travel before and/or after the program as well.

Where will we visit?

We are still finalizing the itinerary for this coming summer, but the current plan includes activities in the following cities: Freiburg (Germany), Strasbourg (France), Zurich and Riva San Vitale (Switzerland), Venice (Italy), Budapest (Hungary), and Prague and Ostrava (Czech Republic). We will also spend a few days at Virginia Tech’s beautiful Steger Center in Riva San Vitale (Ticino Canton), Switzerland.

What do I have to do pre-departure?

In addition to making logistical arrangements and packing your bags, we will start the course with an online module before departure. Students are expected to participate in this as an integral part of the course. It will prepare us all for the trip, and provide an initial introduction to sustainable policy-making and planning in Europe. Some course assignments will also be due pre-departure to minimize the ammount of homework on the road..

What are the expectations on me?

This is a credit-granting course, and thus involves the same expectations as courses on campus. You are expected to conform to the Code of Conduct and behave in a manner consistent with University (in addition to local) laws, regulations, and expectations. There will be plenty of fun, but students are expected to participate fully and actively in all educational components of the trip and cooperate with each other and the faculty to ensure the program runs smoothly.

When are applications due? When do I have to pay?

Applications are due by December, 1, 2017. A non-refundable deposit of $750 will be due immediately upon acceptance. The balance of the program fee will be due by early April, 2018.

What is the course number/department? Is it a CLE offering? Can it substitute?

This course is listed as UAP 3954 for undergraduates and UAP 5954 for graduate students. It is not recognized as a Curriculum for Liberal Education (CLE) offering, but may be substituted in to meet requirements at your advisor’s discretion. EPP and PUA majors and Minors should see Chris LaPlante for information on which courses this can substitute for. If advisors in other deparments need more information to make decisions on suitable substitutions, they may certainly reach out to us – ralphbu [at] vt [dot] edu and tschenk [at] vt [dot] edu.

How do I learn more and show others what a great program this will be?

Please see the blog posts from previous years on this WordPress site for a sampling of the course. The exact program has changed over time–and will continue to evolve– but past students’ postings and pictures can give you a good taste of what is in store.

Of course, please feel free to contact us if you have any further questions – we are happy to answer your questions via email and/or arrange a time to meet. Todd Schenk (tschenk [at] vt [dot] edu) and Ralph Buehler (ralphbu [at] vt [dot] edu).