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‘To learn about the many aspects of the industry, one should be open to travel’

Date
03 August 2022

Graduate civil engineer Mo Kamara shares how travelling – nationally and internationally – has informed his career.

‘To learn about the many aspects of the industry, one should be open to travel’
Mo often photographs the many places he visits. Image courtesy of Mo Kamara

One of the privileges of working as a civil engineer is the opportunity to go places.

Places you've never been before or even thought of visiting.

The ability to travel was one of the key reasons I chose to become a civil engineer. In fact, I often write about my travels in my personal blogs.

In my experience, to learn about the many aspects of the industry, one should be open to travel.

By travelling you expand not only your knowledge of the industry, but that of people, cultures, environments, and so much more.

Travelling is an essential part of my job

Mo Kamara standing outside a building
Mo during a trip to Brighton for a (successful) placement interview. Image courtesy of Mo Kamara

Sometimes cost, distance, family and preferences can get in the way of even wanting to travel.

Being a graduate engineer on a two-year rotation development scheme has completely changed my perspective.

The scheme allows me to go places.

I've spent six months on different projects within various sectors: aviation, railway, design, and more.

You're probably thinking that sounds fantastic. Well, you're right - it is!

Peterborough

My first placement was in a waste management facility in Peterborough, a little over 50 miles from home.

Easily within commutable distance, but I'd never visited this town before.

Probably, as I said before, because it wasn't my preference. I thought it wouldn't be my 'cup of tea'.

Our team was helping to upgrade existing siding infrastructure to handle train offloading. That's the place where you can leave railway vehicles.

Site in Peterborough, UK
Site works to upgrade existing siding infrastructure in Peterborough. Image courtesy of Mo Kamara

The project included:

  • haul/access road upgrades,
  • provision of welfare and security cabins,
  • construction of hardstanding (place to park vehicles) that included drainage works.

Did I mention it's a project that helps deliver HS2's and East West Rail's operational needs?

I was immersed in its operation from day one, learning a lot in such a short period.

Travelling to Peterborough five days a week made me appreciate the journey a lot more.

Understanding the location of towns within the region gave me an awareness of the infrastructure around me.

Devon

Arrow signs in Devon UK
Arrow signs pointing in the direction of tourist attractions near Dartmouth. Image courtesy of Mo Kamara

Torquay was my next destination!

A place that will have a place in my heart forever.

I got involved in the demolition of an old bridge and installation of a new one between Torquay & Paignton.

I mentioned earlier Peterborough was 50miles away from home. Devon was 209 miles away.

Yet, I jumped at the opportunity to go somewhere different: The English Riviera.

Lovely beaches, spectacular nature and scenery may come to mind. A place enriched by wonderful sea views.

I stayed for months, getting involved in the project.

Mo Kamara on site in Devon UK
Mo working on site of a bridge demolition and new bridge installation. Image courtesy of Mo Kamara

But where'd be the fun in staying in a beautiful destination without visiting some of its tourist attractions?

I must admit I first thought the name Devon was a town or city.

I was embarrassed to discover it's a county with picturesque towns and cities of its own:

  • Plymouth
  • Exeter
  • Dartmoor
  • Dartmouth
  • Paignton
  • Torquay

After this discovery I hopped at the chance to explore these towns during the weekends.

Smeaton's Lighthouse
Smeaton's Tower in Plymouth. Image courtesy of Mo Kamara

Smeaton’s Lighthouse, named after the first man to call himself a civil engineer: Sir John Smeaton.

I paid £2.50 to climb the narrow stairs and be amazed by a 360° view of Plymouth. A £2.50 well spent!

Who doesn’t yearn for the experience on a steam train?

I got onboard the steam train from Paignton to Kingswear.

It's an old heritage line engineered by Isambard Kingdom Brunel. As part of the then South Devon Railway, in the mid 1800s, it connected towns along the coast.

The experience was superb!

Steam train in Devon
Great Western Railway steam train called 'Goliath'. Image courtesy of Mo Kamara

Joining a community means different lifestyle, food and culture.

Being a civil engineer has played a vital role in making me more open minded and able to talk to locals.

I’d say 95% of my adventures in Devon came from speaking to locals.

International travel

Be brave go on an adventure quote
'Be brave, go on an adventure' sign painted on pavement. Image courtesy of Mo Kamara

Outside of work I tend to travel every two or three months.

I've been exploring Europe for the most part - boarding cheap flights and staying at hostels.

I get to meet people from around the world and learn about culture, food, history, and of course, engineering.

Portugal

Walking down the streets of Lisbon, Portugal, I came upon the 25 de Abril Bridge.

A suspension bridge that at first glance looked like the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, USA.

Ponte 25 de Abril Bridge in Lisbon
25 de Abril Bridge in Lisbon, Portugal. Image courtesy of Mo Kamara

It was designed by the same team, with a span of over 1000m. It connects the city of Lisbon and Almada.

At first, I saw cars driving down it. Then, as I got closer, I saw trains.

I was shocked to find out it was a double-decker suspension bridge.

Convinced that it must be a tourist attraction, I sought some kind of museum.

We found it in one of the supporting piers of the bridge. In it, I discovered showrooms detailing the bridges history as well as how it was built.

The highlight was the lift that takes you all the way up to the same level as the cars on the bridge.

Walking out of the lift you would be exposed to a glass floor balcony.

Looking down the glass floor is a scary and exciting view of about 50 to 70m below - quite a view to behold.

View from Ponte 25 de Abril Bridge in Lisbon
View from the deck of the 25 de Abril Bridge in Lisbon, Portugal. Image courtesy of Mo Kamara

When I got back to England, I shared this experience with my managers. They'd never heard of it!

We all agreed the concept was impressive and I realised that I'd gained something valuable from my travels.

Sierra Leone

After not going for eight years, I paid a visit to Sierra Leone – the motherland.

I wanted to explore places I'd never visited.

Sign welcoming people to Sierra Leone
Sign welcoming travellers to Sierra Leone. Image courtesy of Mo Kamara

One day, I was driving along the northwest region of Freetown when I saw something strange, yet unique.

Bamboo was being used as a vertical supporting material for floor slabs, beams and scaffolding!

I saw it being used in houses under construction along the neighbourhood.

My first instinct was to question the safety. I then reminded myself of the compressive properties of bamboo.

Bamboo used as scaffolding in Sierra Leone
Bamboo being used for scaffolding in Sierra Leone. Image courtesy of Mo Kamara

Plus, we should encourage the use of local materials for a more sustainable environment.

Once again, I was surprised by what I was learning in my travels!

Read more of Mo's writing

Mo shares stories that contribute to personal development, life’s experiences and purpose in his blog titled ‘A Walk with Mo’.

Read Mo's blogs

  • Mohamed Kamara, site civil engineer at Dyer & Butler