Our Ambassadors Talk Sustainability & Study Abroad

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IES Abroad

Study abroad and sustainability go hand in hand, as embodied by our Global Good Commitment. Why? Simply put, anyone interested in exploring this planet should also have a vested interest in caring for it, too!

While we’re all inhabitants of this planet, every country handles issues surrounding sustainability differently, so there’s no better way to understand sustainability on a personal and global scale than living in another country during study abroad. That's why, in celebration of Earth Day this year, our Ambassadors have given some insight on how their sustainability views and practices changed during study abroad. Whether it was through small lifestyle changes or reexamining common practices in the United States, they all experienced a shift in their ideas surrounding sustainability and their role as global citizens.

How did you practice sustainability abroad?

Sorting Trash/Recyclables:

"Germany has a really comprehensive waste management system, where you have to categorize your trash and recycling among five categories. Plastics, paper, glass, organic matter, and potentially hazardous wastes are collected separately. My student apartment building had separate bins to separate our trash to accommodate this." - Corena Pincham, left (Berlin | Fall 2021 | Miami University)

“The Stay Club that housed us in London had easily accessible recycle bins to sort our waste so as to make sure it ended up in the most sustainable place.” – Erin Daly (London | Summer 2021 | Indiana University)

Opting For Public Transit:

"In Madrid, sustainability was built into the culture a lot more than what I have experienced in [Pennsylvania]. The biggest way I practiced sustainability was by using public transportation. In Madrid, [public transportation] was very easy to access, it was clean, and the streets were much less congested because of it!" - Autumn Paone, right (Madrid | Spring 2020 | Lafayette College)

Other Small Lifestyle Changes:

"I took short showers, turned off the sink water when I wasn't using it, brought my reusable water bottle wherever I went and tried to fill it up at home or at filling stations, recycled things through my residence's program, and opted to walk when possible." - Emma Riston, left (Barcelona | Spring 2020 | University of Vermont) 

"I spent most of my time in parks and by the river and noticed myself doing whatever I could to help make these places look better than the way I found them." - Timothy McGowan, right (London | Summer 2021 | Indiana University) 

"I noticed myself being outside more, I was grateful to study in London where there were many green spaces, parks, and outside areas. It was very encouraged to participate in activities like picnics or walks rather than going to watch a movie on tv or playing video games. Spending time in nature or around natural spaces made a positive impact on my physical, mental, and emotional health giving me more of a desire to protect and want to preserve natural environments. I also felt more inclined to make eco-friendly choices." - Massa Massaley (London | Summer 2021| Indiana University) 

"I practiced sustainability abroad by carrying a reusable canvas bag provided by my [IES Abroad] program when I went shopping. Plastic bags were not a regular convenience like at home. At home, some stores provide plastic bags for free, whereas in some places [abroad], you are charged for bags."  - Abena Afari (Santiago | Fall 2019 | Grinnell College) 

How was your experience with sustainability different in your host country than at home?

"I practiced sustainability abroad more than I practiced sustainability in my hometown. Living in a big city, I noticed how much more environmentally aware and green people were. My experience in London was different than living in [Indiana] because I was outside and noticing the environment and my impact more." -  Massa Massaley (London | Summer 2021| Indiana University) 

"Prior to studying abroad, in the United States I had a tendency to drive despite having a public transportation system. When I studied abroad and got more used to the public train and bus system, I appreciated the convenience of and felt good about generally reducing my carbon footprint. " - Lisset De La Rosa, left (Madrid | Spring 2020 | University of Michigan) 

"The United States doesn’t have good waste separation measures, as individual cities and states have different parameters for that. I’d recommend a federal program be implemented, like Germany’s, to allow more citizens to recycle and consider the impact of their purchases." - Corena P.

"The United States has a contentious relationship with sustainability, with it often being seen as a controversial topic, and only some businesses taking truly active steps to help the environment. However, in the UK it is a much more talked about and widely accepted topic, holding a place in the forefront of business strategy and importance." - Erin D., right

Did studying abroad change the way you think about your environmental impact?

"Germany takes personal sustainability efforts quite seriously, whether it’s proper waste separation, the plethora of bioprodukte (organic) groceries you can buy, or compostable packaging. I enjoyed living a more environmentally-friendly lifestyle, and thinking about the impact of my consumption habits." - Corena P.

"While I was virtual…my coworkers certainly [practiced sustainability]. Many took public transportation or biked to work. It made me more open to modes of transportation other than car." – Marissa Hastings (Virtual Internship | Summer 2021| Lehigh University) 

"Studying abroad definitely played a role in how I think about my footprint. Since utilities are so expensive [in Spain], I thought a lot more about how often we ran the dishwasher, showers, etc. I also took a class called Spanish Art & Architecture that really made me think about cars in the United States; since reliable, clean public transportation is scarce, it is common for everyone to have a car. In this class we discussed how it differs from many European cities. This alone probably decreased my carbon footprint when I was abroad." - Autumn P., left

"I felt more inclined to think more green [abroad] and then upon my return home. I started to use my own bags when I went shopping. I also have a new found love for flea markets and small businesses [versus] shopping at corporate stores. I now realize that each [London] flea market had something green about it, whether it be the Columbia Road Flower Market, Camden Market with thrift and vintage accessories, or Borough Market with local, quick, fresh eats and fresh produce from local farms. I also became more eco-friendly with my fashion by shopping at thrift and vintage stores, and I would donate my clothes too." - Massa M., right

IES Abroad Global Good Commitment

At IES Abroad, we know that study abroad changes lives, and changed lives change the world. To recognize and champion the work of our students, staff, and vast alum network, the Global Good Commitment was created. It has been thoughtfully infused into our courses, curriculum, experiential learning, co-curricular programming, best practices, and more.

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