This summer I was fortunate enough to adventure in Cuba for a once-in-a-lifetime study abroad experience through the CHANCE program. During our stay, we traveled across western Cuba, partaking in many activities including touring an organic farm, snorkeling in pristine Cuban reefs, and assisting researchers late at night with nesting sea turtles. The goal of this study abroad was to learn about the importance of conservation and preservation regarding sustainability and how it is applied in Cuba. Throughout the constant stream of amazing activities, our group gathered information and data for small scale research projects that will be presented at the Penn State Undergraduate Poster Exhibition.

I cannot put into words the impact that this study abroad experience has had on my life. This course has equipped me with a whole new understanding and perspective of the environmental issues that plague this earth. I had the opportunity to learn from people whose passion to make a change was so inspirational. This program has also ignited a desire in me to do research. I’m doing research with Penn State this summer in Mueller lab and this trip gave me so much zeal for the work I’m doing here in the United States. I have a want and a will to educate people on the importance of taking care of the world we live in.

One of the reasons I took this summer course was because it seemed to be exactly what my BIO 220 class was teaching in the spring 2017. I enjoyed the class and thought that the hands-on learning the Cuba course would provide could be a great compliment / enhancement course. BIO 220 did a great job of sparking my interest for environmental concerns and the Cuba course showed me what people are already doing to help, and what I can do to help.

One thing I learned during my time abroad is the importance of collaboration. When people unite for one purpose, things can be accomplished, and fast. Regarding the environment, this is crucial, because the world we live in needs help and the change needed to keep it healthy needs to come quickly. I was able to speak with biologists in Cuba and hear about the amazing non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that they are supporting in order to make a difference, specifically in the lives of sea turtles in Cuba, Mexico, and the United States, and also concerning the health and protection of the ever-important coral reefs. This experience may not directly apply to my future goals of working in medicine; however, the experience has broadened my understanding of the world. This is something I will always take with me, and I hope to utilize my new knowledge to help make the world a better place for all who live in it through collaboration and the sharing of information.

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