Students apply classroom concepts and serve communities in Nepal and Greece

By

Marissa Huth

Students traveling with SFIS professors to Nepal and Greece this summer gained invaluable insight into themselves and intercultural awareness during their experience applying concepts learned during class in real life circumstances.

Challenges in sustainable development were the focus of a Study Abroad trip to Greece this summer led by Mary Jane Parmentier, a clinical associate professor researching the role of technology in global development. “Students looked at the complexity involved in social, economic, environmental, cultural and political contexts as they visited archeological sites and participated in community service projects,” said Parmentier.

Monique Hasbun, a senior in the Innovation in Society program, explained how she was able to apply techniques she had studied while in the field during her study abroad experience. “We used the concept of “future thinking” to analyze emerging trends in a society and possible futures a community might encounter in certain circumstances. For example, how the region of Mani might function with an influx of immigrants or how the community will react to sustainable tourism happening in their village.”

Students traveling to Nepal with the group led by Netra Chhetri and accompanied by Nalini Chhetri, both SFIS professors, learned how communities are integrating local resources with technology to solve challenges. They helped install solar panels for irrigation in two local farming communities, and participated in a biochar project that processes invasive weeds in the area into charcoal. The group also conducted STEM learning activities with fifth through 10th grade students to gauge interest in energy and education innovations in community middle and high schools.

“We challenged our students to view issues that communities are facing through a lens of local culture and economic conditions. It was eye-opening for many as they came to understand not just the limitations villages struggle with, but also the incredible capacities and resilience these local communities bring to the table,” said Nalini Chhetri. “For the fourth time, the Nepal program has focused on students from interdisciplinary backgrounds including engineering and environmental science graduate students from Tribhuvan University (TU), Nepal’s oldest and largest university. This type of peer learning has been considered the highlight of the program by students of both universities.”

Justin Haley, a graduate student in the Global Technology and Development program, commented, "I have learned things that no textbook could ever teach me (like the value of empowerment as a transformative tool, and also how to use a squatty potty without falling into the abyss) and forged meaningful relationships with people whose humanity and compassion have offered a renewed faith in the future." Heather Otten, an undergraduate student on the trip said, “I am so grateful not only for this experiential learning opportunity, but also for the passion and life it brought back to me.”