Connect with a Student Ambassador

If you would like to connect with a former student of the School of the Environment, please email one of our alumni volunteers.

NameCollege/University
Grace CarterBard College
Hellen Li Washington and Lee University
Benjy Renton

Middlebury College

Grace Carter, Bard College '21, Biology

What was your favorite thing about the Middlebury School of the Environment?

Meeting the people who would live with me for the next 6 weeks and who would become my friends. My classmates were strong, independent people who inspired me to take chances and get out of my comfort zone. The program brought together people who might have never spoken or even met. I came knowing no one and not speaking any chinese (both have changed since). We bonded over many pots of tea, art and some really delicious meals.

Why did you choose to do the Middlebury School of the Environment?

I couldn't give up a chance to travel while studying the environment. I joined for an adventure and I got several.

What surprised you about the program?

People were really intrested in us! We were stopped regularly when we traveled in large groups and even filmed during our closing ceremony. Everyone I spoke to wanted to know what I was doing in China, how I liked the food and where I was from. It was lovely because people were so curious and excited when we shared our lives with them and were willing to speak to us covering controversial topics about the government and the environment.

Hellen Li, Washington and Lee '21, Political Science & Sociology-Anthropology

What was your favorite thing about the Middlebury School of the Environment?

The experience of immersing myself into a completely different culture and seeing the unique landscape features of China. The hikes, temple rituals, and all of the amazing guest speakers that came to speak to us about the way China deals with environmental protection were incredible. It was so invigorating to be able to learn so much from the local people, meet so many wonderful people from different universities, and go on adventures all summer.

Why did you choose to do the Middlebury School of the Environment?

As a politics and sociology-anthropology double major with an environmental science minor, interdisciplinary education is extremely important to forming connections. I knew that the program would offer me an unparalleled educational experience allowing all my interests to be woven together. In China, I not only learned about the environment but how the government deals with conservation but also how local people interact with the government and the environment to try and improve currently conditions. I would not be able to form so many meaningful, in depth connections across so many disciplines without this unique opportunity, nor would I get to go to China to directly see what I learned about in my environmental class about the effects of pollution.

What surprised you about the program?

I was genuinely surprised by how hands on the program was and the amount of time we had to explore to gain a sense of place defined by the local community. Unlike most classes that are structured and rigid, this program gave me ample time to develop relationships with the local people, have meals with restaurant owners, bond with my professors and peers, and develop a newfound appreciation for China. I did not expect to be so sad about leaving such an amazing group of individuals and a truly remarkable country.

Benjy Renton, Middlebury College '21, East Asian Studies

What was your favorite thing about the Middlebury School of the Environment?

I really enjoyed being able to examine the effects of environmental policy on people living in the area. During our time in Xizhou, we had the opportunity to interview local fishermen and residents and hear their thoughts on their relationship with the environmental and the government's actions to help protect it. 

Why did you choose to do the Middlebury School of the Environment?

I wanted to add an environmental dimension to my courses in East Asian Studies at Middlebury. China is a fascinating place to study the environment and I wanted to explore it in a way I had not seen before.

What surprised you about the program?

I was surprised by the interdisciplinary of our courses and how diverse my classmates were. Although we were all studying similar material, our different academic backgrounds enabled us to all contribute varying perspectives to environmental issues.