ERIE, Pa. — A dozen Penn State Behrend students who are members of the Global Boarders Living Learning Community traveled to the University Park campus for a weekend of cultural immersion in November. The students attended We Are the World, an annual cultural showcase event hosted by the International Student Council and supported by Penn State Global. They also attended Global Sustainable Action: It Starts with Us, an annual half-day conference hosted by Penn State Global and Penn State Sustainability that highlights connections between culture and sustainability.
Students learned about a wide variety of sustainability-related topics, including diverting plastic waste, sustainable travel and acting locally through Penn State Sustainability’s Local Climate Action Program.
“Penn State global has intentionally folded ‘sustainability’ into the work we do at the University,” said Riki Hay, a regional global education coordinator who oversees the Global Boarders program at the Behrend campus. “We aim to help students connect their travel and intercultural experiences with their responsibilities as global citizens. The Global Sustainable Action: It Starts with Us conference gives student leaders the chance to showcase the work they are doing around sustainability and hopefully inspire their peers in thought and action.”
Below, in their own words, are some student reflections on the experience. Their comments have been edited for length and clarity.
Ethan Dlugos, a first-year interdisciplinary business with engineering major:
“Opportunities like this are important because they bring people together from so many different places, all of whom have a common interest. Even though we are so diverse, when we are together, we can open each others’ eyes to connections between seemingly dissimilar issues or solutions.
“The most memorable thing I learned is that different parts of the world have distinct perspectives. For example, starting a business that aims to eliminate food waste in restaurants by selling the surplus at a discount is something that might need to be approached differently here in the U.S., compared to in Columbia.
“No matter where you are in the world, sustainability is an issue. Some places may have a more severe case of pollution than others, for instance, but we all agreed this weekend that no problem in the world, no matter how big or small, will ever get solved if people don’t put their heads and resources together to find a solution.”
Grace Mumo, a third-year student majoring in elementary education with a minor in special education:
“Opportunities like this are eye-openers. They enable students to build their networks and inspire them to dream big. These opportunities can also challenge false thoughts and solidify truths.
“During the conference, I learned so much about how important each U.N. Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) is. As a future teacher, I will be working to promote SDG 4: Quality Education, even while I am still a student.
“I became friends with students from different Penn State campuses who are very passionate about sustainability. One of them was from my country (Kenya), and we got to talk in Swahili. I imagine that these connections are what the future needs, and, like so many others, I am inspired to take steps to promote sustainability.”
Aidan DeLuca, a first-year student majoring in mechanical engineering:
“It is very important for students to have the chance to connect with their peers on problems that will develop as time moves forward. A network of abled students is produced from these events, and having all of us realize the problem early is massive for young generations.
“One of the presenters showcased how he and two of his friends are starting a business that utilizes natural ingredients to make fibers for clothing. I learned a lot about the barriers of entry for a business like that, and some of the legal processes it took. They started their idea of a sustainability solution and are moving it forward, which I think is awesome.
“Sustainability is a global issue that impacts every human being on Earth. Conferences like this provide the opportunity and tools for students so we feel we can act.”