Interning and Researching Abroad in Two Areas of Study

After spending more than a year in Germany in both research and internship positions, senior double-major Jake Blythe gained invaluable knowledge in both his areas of study: German and Urban Planning.

Blythe is interested in exploring how “mega-events,” such as the Olympics and the World Cup, affect the urban development of cities. For each impending mega-event, various cities bid on the opportunity to host the games, and Blythe is particularly curious about the impact failed bids have on cities that were nominated but not accepted.

This interest is what sparked his visit to Germany during the summer after his first year at Michigan State University. Blythe spent six weeks abroad, visiting seven German cities and speaking with 17 individuals about why mega-event bids did or did not fail and what urban advancements took or could take place as a result of the bids.

In total, Blythe recorded more than 18 hours of German conversation. This initial trip was funded in full through the College of Arts & Letters Undergraduate Research Initiative and the College of Social Science Andrews Fellowship.

“This was an independent research project, so I did not anticipate the amazing resources I would be given,” Blythe said. “By the end, the experience really evolved into something I wasn’t expecting when I started.”

Before Blythe’s departure, the trip needed to be approved by the Institutional Review Board. After arriving in Germany, his work mainly consisted of visiting the city archives and talking to opposition representatives, academics, consultants, members of the bidding committees, and managers of past mega-event facilities to learn different perspectives on the impact of the bids.

By the end, the experience really evolved into something I wasn’t expecting when I started.

Blythe is now compiling the information he collected in the hopes of publishing an academic, peer-reviewed article with his co-authors and mentors, Professor Mark Wilson and Associate Professor Eva Kassens-Noor, who are both in the School of Planning, Design and Construction.

“My MSU experiences were so helpful, because I was given work at a graduate level,” Blythe said. “If I decide to go the graduate school route, I’m ready for it; there’s a lot of things I’ve learned along the way.”

After his return from his research trip, Blythe spent about a month at home before he packed up his bags and jetted away again, this time for the Academic Year in Freiburg study abroad program. He spent the next 12 months taking classes and interning as a project assistant in the European Secretariat of the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI).

man and woman posing in front of shop stand
Blythe (left) with friend Janka in Strasbourg, France, in front of a Christmas Market stand. 

“I worked with sustainable resources, climate, and the resilience department in Freiburg,” Blythe said. “ I worked a lot with district heating and smart city initiatives, often in countries that I didn’t know that much about beforehand, like those in the Baltics. The continued exposure to German was invaluable.”

Blythe will graduate from MSU in spring 2018 after just three years as an undergraduate. Afterwards, he hopes to continue publishing his research, potentially attend graduate school, and assist in planning mega-events.

“MSU worked out perfectly; there’s so much freedom,” he said. “To be this independent and work at an almost graduate level, to do a trip outside of the United States, and to see the faith that my professors and MSU had in me really defines my undergraduate experience.”