Oregon Tech students Karoline Herkamp and Caroline Schulze spent two weeks in Denmark and Sweden this summer studying sustainable transportation methods as part of a National Institute for Transportation and Communities (NITC) fellowship. Through the program, Herkamp and Schulze met with planners and engineers and toured transportation in Copenhagen and Stockholm.

NITC states that Copenhagen, like Amsterdam, is sometimes referred to as “the world's cycling capital.” With some of the world's most progressive congestion mitigation policies, Stockholm boasts a robust multimodal public transportation system that includes ferries. The NITC study abroad program allowed students to experience infrastructure up close and personal and to use it in navigating the countries.

Herkamp said she was surprised by how alive the cities felt. "The vast majority of cities in America are just designed for vehicles," she said. "This leads to our cities feeling almost sterile. We use so much of cities as a space between our homes, schools, works, etc., rather than an active part of the city that can live and breathe independently. In Copenhagen and Stockholm, you can constantly interact with other people as you bike, walk, or ride transit with them. Because these other forms of transportation are so widely used, there are other positive community improvements, like a lack of litter on sidewalks and bike paths and more safe public transportation, which make the cities feel more livable."

Schulze said her goal for this fellowship was to gain a broader perspective on the world of transportation planning and engineering. "I have family in Europe, so I've experienced how well public transportation in European cities works, but I was hoping to learn more about the design behind such a well-functioning system."

Both students brought back experiences they feel will help them in their future careers. "This experience has given me perspective on urban planning," Schulze said. "Now that I know how easy it is to move around European cities, I will keep that in mind while planning cities in my future career. I believe by focusing on humans instead of cars, transportation will have to work for people instead of around them."

"This experience will help me in my future career as it showed me the value of always looking to improve the way things are done," Herkamp said. "Compared to most of the U.S., the biking, pedestrian, and public transportation infrastructure in Copenhagen and Stockholm are amazing. However, after talking to public officials, city planners, engineers, architects, and citizens of these cities, they all see ways their current cities can be improved and are actively pushing to achieve these improvements. Despite these cities being world leaders, they are still trying to improve (and fix prior infrastructure that is not up to their standards), which is something I hope I can take forward as I work in my future community."

Herkamp is from Salem and expects to graduate in 2023 with a bachelor's degree in Civil Engineering and Environmental Science and a master's degree in Civil Engineering. Originally from Loveland, Colo., Schulze is on track to graduate in 2023 with a bachelor's and master's degree in Civil Engineering.

The trip was facilitated by NITC, one of seven U.S. Department of Transportation national university transportation centers. This partnership is led by Portland State University and includes University of Oregon, Oregon Institute of Technology, University of Utah, University of Arizona, and University of Texas at Arlington.