Participation in the GREEN Program inspires EMS students to become ambassadors

Penn State students hike a glacier in Iceland as part of the GREEN Program. All are Penn State students except William Martin. Front row: Erifili Draklellis; middle row: Drew Barron, Prateek Srivastava, Kayla McCauley, Jacob Kaminski, and Chris Long; back row: William Martin, Clay Moyer, and Kyle Gladden. Credit: Courtesy Jacob KaminskiAll Rights Reserved.

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.

Jacob Kaminski in Iceland as part of the GREEN program. Credit: Courtesy Jacob KaminskiAll Rights Reserved.

Grace Kimzey knew she wanted to study abroad but she didn’t know where. So, she asked herself the time-tested question, “If I could go anywhere, where would I go?” The answer for the rising junior majoring in meteorology and atmospheric science was Iceland.

After some research, Kimzey found the GREEN Program. She applied and was accepted, but funding posed an issue.

“I had been worried about the cost,” Kimzey said, “But I applied for an EMS scholarship, and received $2,500.”

That scholarship meant Kimzey would be able to study abroad in her dream country.

From the moment she stepped off the plane in Iceland, Kimzey was busy with the GREEN sustainability curriculum and immersive activities. During the 10-day trip, the group toured hydropower and geothermal plants, visited iconic Icelandic waterfalls and black sand beaches, collaborated on their capstone projects, and enjoyed lessons from the local residents — both in and out of the classroom.

This combination of adventure with study thrilled Kimzey.

“The ratio of learning to traveling was excellent,” she said.

For Kimzey, who is passionate about the environment, the Iceland program’s emphasis on sustainability and renewable energy was inspiring.

“For me, studying climate is hopeful,” Kimzey said, “because while we learn about so much that’s negative, we learn that we can still do something about it.”

Also a GREEN Ambassador, Kimzey is eager to share the GREEN Program philosophy and mission with other Penn State students. She uses social media, email and information sessions to tell others about the program. But she feels that talking to others about her experience works best.

“I always tell them, ‘Hey, I went to Iceland, you can, too!’ ” she said.

Grace Kimzey in Iceland as part of the GREEN program. Credit: Courtesy Grace KimzeyAll Rights Reserved.


Last Updated May 29, 2019