As an engineering student at UND, you don’t hear of many opportunities to study abroad. And why should you? The top science and engineering schools are right here in the US and professors from around the world come here to teach these disciplines. But even though we are in a prime location to learn about and work for engineering and technology fields, we want to learn through travel as well.
We hear that we should travel while we are young and gain experiences outside the classroom, so as engineers we may pursue internships to gain knowledge about how our coursework is actually used in real world situations. But do we really gain as much as we can by following the beaten path and not going out to see the rest of the world? This is what I wanted to find out when I applied to The GREEN Program.
I received an email from UND’s student experience coordinators last February about The GREEN Program and was instantly intrigued when I saw that it was related to renewable energy and sustainability. I’ve been interested in the renewable energy field for quite some time and hope to be an environmental engineer after college. After researching more, I learned that any college student from a business to engineering major can attend, and the trips are only two weeks long so it wouldn’t interfere with my academic semesters. I immediately applied thinking I had nothing to lose. And I was right, because I got accepted a few days later.
After making the decision to attend, I spent most of the summer anticipating my first trip out of the country — to Iceland. I didn’t receive a day-to-day itinerary, so I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect when I arrived at the airport along with 40 other students from around the world. But that was almost the best part — every day was a mystery, but it was also action packed and filled with excitement. It allowed me to appreciate every day for what it was and not what I had expected it to be in my mind.
We attended several lectures at Reykjavik University from its professors and learned about hydraulic, wind, solar, biofuel, and geothermal energies and their economics. It was great to learn how feasible it is to actually use these energies as your only source of energy as Iceland does. On top of that, almost immediately after the respective lectures we went on site visits to the power plants. For example, we traveled to the largest geothermal power plant in Iceland and went on a factory tour to see how this heat from our Earth’s core is harnessed to provide electricity to the countries residents.
Throughout the program, we also worked on putting together a brief capstone project in a group ,which is to be presented to, not only our peers, but also many faculty members at Reykjavik University. We were given almost complete creative freedom on the project choice and given the opportunity to present to such an intelligent audience created a real sense of accomplishment upon completing a successful presentation.
Along with the academic experiences, we went on many outdoor excursions led by some really cool Icelandic guides. We hiked to and swam in a natural hot spring; we visited at least ten different
waterfalls; we went glacier and mountain hiking; we went caving and tectonic plate snorkeling; we camped outside and in beautiful guesthouses. Every single day was an adventure, and I am so glad I took this opportunity.
Traveling abroad has very much strengthened my leadership and communication skills. Just going somewhere new, tasting their food, and seeing their culture and way of life for as little as two weeks can make a big impact and change your perspective on the world. I came back to the states super hyped on life and am now more secure in my plans for the future thanks to The GREEN Program. Sometimes you can’t learn everything through textbooks.
As Mohammed said “Don’t tell me how educated you are, tell me how much you traveled.” I hope everyone gets to experience a trip like this in their early adult life.
Taylor Goven is an ambassador of the Green program. You can reach her at [email protected]