By Lucia Dunderman
The number of study abroad opportunities available to students in the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering and the College of ACES is second to none! Over my college career, I have participated in four study abroad programs.
My first trip took place during the winter break of my freshman year. After a project-based engineering class in the fall, I had the opportunity to work on the project in another country. Our project focused on wildlife control, indoor air quality, and women empowerment with the Maasai tribe in Tanzania. The Maasai women worked with us to build chimneys in their huts and living fences around their villages. As a sign of gratitude, the Maasai tribe slaughtered a goat in front of us and cooked it. While it was the best meat I’ve ever had, I haven’t been able to look at a goat the same since! Getting to learn and work side-by-side, even though we didn’t speak the same language, with women from a very different culture was an extremely rewarding experience.
During my second program, I studied the effect of climate change on the Swedish Arctic region and environment during the summer of 2015. I spent three weeks at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm before traveling north to the Swedish Arctic for the remainder of the program. We studied glaciers at the Tarfala Research Station and visited various mining operations. The most shocking part of the trip was seeing multiple towns that were going to disappear due to collapsing mines. I fully witnessed the effects of the human impact on the environment and how we can affect our way of life.
The third program I participated in was during the summer of 2016 in Hangzhou, China. I worked with a post-graduate level research team at Zhejiang University, looking at the effects of non-point source pollution on drinking water quality. I traveled to many different areas of China, and often my Illini peers and I were the only internationals in the area. Getting to work with my research team bred lifelong friendships. They taught me Mandarin, aspects of Chinese culture, their hometown culture, and much about the surrounding environmental issues. I learned how my major can positively impact millions of people and how to work together with people from the other side of the world.
The last program was during the spring 2017 semester of my junior year. I was a student at University College Dublin in Dublin, Ireland. Living and studying abroad for a semester allowed me to experience what it was like to be a student at UCD. I traveled around Ireland and to many countries in Europe. The great thing about studying at UCD was meeting more than just American students. My group of friends ranged from from Austria, The Netherlands, Italy, Singapore, Germany, Norway, Spain, and many more. It made me appreciate not just my time in Ireland, but also my home and my home university.
Experiencing different cultures and countries in my college career has helped shape me not just as a person, but also academically and for my future career. I have been able to make lifelong relationships out of these programs and the perspective that I gained about the world is something that can’t be taught from a textbook. My international experiences have already shaped my post-college career; I will be the Continuous Improvement Specialist in the U.S. Virgin Islands for my first year rotation at Diageo. I would not be where I am today without my travels and the support from ACES study abroad, IPENG, and the Department of Agricultural & Biological Engineering.