UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Before studying abroad through the GREEN Program, Jacob Kaminski didn’t have a clear vision of how he could address sustainability challenges around the world. But his study abroad trips to Iceland and Japan radically expanded his perspective.
The GREEN Program is a study abroad program that bridges the gap between traditional classroom and experiential learning. Its model uses the “world as the classroom, expertly balancing sustainability-focused course work, exclusive industry exposure, and bucket-list adventures” to give its students unique, real-world experiences.
Kaminski, a senior majoring in earth science and policy, traveled to Japan through GREEN’s Disaster Mitigation and Nuclear to Renewable Transitions program and to Iceland through the Renewable Energy and Sustainability program where he found himself transported to an entirely different kind of classroom: the surface of a glacier, a nuclear containment zone and volcanic highlands.
“There was the exploration factor,” Kaminski said. “It’s thrilling to go somewhere you’ve never been before and be exposed to an entirely new way of learning.”
On his trip to Japan, Kaminski was surprised to find that Melissa Lee, founder and CEO of the GREEN Program, was the guide.
“It was remarkable to be there with this person who had a dream about sustainable education,” Kaminski said. “It helped me see what I could do in the world.”
Interactions with locals also inspired Kaminski.
“I’m interested in the ethics surrounding climate change,” Kaminski said. “Who wins, and who loses? How are people affected? When you consider cultural beliefs and ways of life, making these decisions becomes harder.”
These transformative experiences instilled a desire in Kaminski to share these opportunities with other students: through a competitive process, he was selected to become one of the GREEN Ambassadors for Penn State.
As an ambassador, Kaminski hopes to motivate others to share the GREEN experience.
“I believe more people should have that — the joy of the experience, the human connections, the knowledge you gain,” he said.