Dedication Takes Engineering Student from Argentina to Germany

February 25, 2016
Uliarte Victoria
Uliarte Victoria

It’s 1 a.m. in Brunswick, Germany, and Juan Agustin Uliarte Victoria is still awake, eyes glued to his computer screen.

His beloved Club Atletico River Plate, of the Argentine Primera Division, is playing soccer.

“It’s a big part of my life,” Uliarte Victoria said, adding with a laugh, “I’m still dreaming that I’m a football star.”

The River Plate matches also remind him of home. Uliarte Victoria, S.M.ASCE, hails from San Juan, Argentina, and the summer weather he sees on his computer screen is in stark contrast to the winter temperatures he faces in Germany, where he is studying structural engineering and geotechnical engineering for a year as part of an academic exchange service program between the two countries.

“When I started to study civil engineering, I always wanted to apply for this program,” Uliarte Victoria.

It isn’t Uliarte Victoria’s first trip to Germany. He spent a school year there when he was 16 as a foreign exchange student, inspired by his mother, Mabel Victoria, who studied in the United States as a teenager.

“My family and I in Argentina received a German student for a year. Things went very well with him. So his family invited me to go with his family for a year,” Uliarte Victoria said.

“It was a great year. I learned a lot, many things of Europe. I made plenty of new friends. It was a really great experience. He’s like my brother.”

Uliarte Victoria recently reconnected with his host family for a birthday party.

Meanwhile, the engineering program is challenging. It began last August with an intensive German-language course. Uliarte Victoria now is writing his thesis and plans to work at a German architectural bureau this summer.

“I think engineering in Germany is a very important field,” Uliarte Victoria said. “Engineers are very well-known here in Germany. They get a lot of attention.”

Uliarte Victoria will have one more year of studies when he returns to Argentina. Then he’d like to pursue a doctorate, possibly in the United States. One of his sisters was an exchange student near the University of California, Berkeley and Uliarte Victoria fell in love with the school during a visit.

All of it is following in the footsteps of his father, a civil engineer and professor in Argentina.

“Since I was a child I was joining him on trips to construction sites, and I think I was like a sponge,” Uliarte Victoria said. “I didn’t realize it, but I was taking in all that stuff and all those buildings. Then when I was a bit older, I decided I wanted to study something where I could see the results. I thought civil engineering was the best.

“My father (Ricardo Uliarte) is very happy about it. He’s quiet. He doesn’t show his emotions a lot, but I’m sure he’s happy. He is for me all I would like to be when I’m older. It’s a great example for me.”

ASCE’s New Faces of Civil Engineering recognition programs highlight the next generation of civil engineering leaders. By showcasing young, diverse, talented engineers the program shows that engineering is an exciting profession open to everyone. Ten honorees are selected by ASCE in each of two divisions: collegiate and professional.

Honorees receive recognition during National Engineers Week, which runs through Feb. 27, and at ASCE’s annual Outstanding Projects And Leaders (OPAL) Gala, March 17, in Arlington, VA.

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