For Brandon Hoopingarner, BS ’08, MArch '11, Polyark18/World Tour4 was all he expected and more: life-changing and inspiring. This immersive learning experience allowed him to examine how other cultures define their communities and relate to each other.

Every other year, students in the College of Architecture and Planning take a whirlwind tour of 23 countries and 56 cities such as Paris, Madrid, Cairo, Beijing, and Instanbul, with daily assignments at each locale. The 2010 tour had 40 students (one urban planning, 13 landscape architecture, and 26 architecture students) and two professors.

"I chose Ball State for my graduate study because it transformed the world into my classroom,” Hoopingarner says. “Expanding my horizons through travel has allowed me to identify opportunities and implement design strategies in my own local community."

The students did plenty of sharing. During the tour, they posted assignments to the Web, allowing guests to travel, albeit vicariously, through them. Visitors to the site also were able to post comments that were shared with individual students and the entire group.

"Each day is spent observing, reacting, recording, reflecting, and experimenting with design, which creates a rich learning environment," says Les Smith, a landscape architecture professor and Polyark18/World Tour4 codirector. "The intense program generates a sincere concern for the people, places, and principles that honor sustainable environments."

When they returned, the students applied what they've learned to a design project in their hometowns. Hoopingarner recognized strategic ways to incorporate ideas into the architecture of his hometown, Indianapolis. He now has a vision on how he can employ his skills and knowledge of architecture in his home city. 

Hoopingarner says the tour encourages him to travel abroad more in the future and has cultivated a desire for perpetual learning.

“The World Tour experience allows you to discover a framework for assessing the culture, its economy, and its degree of sustainability. It creates a design library for you to use as a resource,” he says. 

Follow Hoopingarner’s and the other students' work on the Polyark18/World Tour4 Web site.

Architecture professors Rod Underwood and Ted Wolner served as codirectors with Smith.