Sustainable Study Abroad Grants 2015-16


Courtney den Elzen
Middlebury School in Latin America, Chile
Reforestemos Patagonia

I will be volunteering on a 4-day student tree planting exhibition with the Chilean reforestation initiative, Reforestemos Patagonia during my semester abroad with Middlebury School in Chile. The organization as a non-profit citizen movement which has utilized both public and private support to organize the largest reforestation initiative in the history of Chile. The experience of participating in the powerful conservation and recovery initiative, and interviewing organization leaders and participating Chilean students will become a key part of my Middlebury course end of semester project in which I am studying the dynamics of conservation development and economic development in Chile. 


Mikaela Gillman
Middlebury School in Latin America, Chile
Art and Health: Art Therapy Workshop

As part of my internship with La Escuela Municipal de Bellas Artes, an art school in Valparaiso, Chile, I will be helping start an art therapy workshop at a local health clinic. Since I started working with La Escuela Municipal de Bellas Artes, we have had the goal of connecting the school to the community and as part of this project, my supervisor and I have been meeting with the social worker at Consultorio Mena, the nearby health clinic, to design this workshop. The workshop will meet every week at the clinic and will be taught by myself, a professor at the art school, and the psychologist at the clinic. The workshop will benefit 10-20 children with attention deficit and other behavioral disorders. Thanks to the Middlebury College Sustainable Study Abroad Student Grant, we will be able to purchase materials for the workshop.


Isabel Gross

Middlebury School in Latin America, Chile
The Role of the Mo’ai in Developing a Sustainable Economic Future for Rapa Nui

I will be conducting interviews with locals on Rapa Nui to investigate their views on the role of the mo’ai—giant stone ancestor-statues—in the island’s economic future. While the statues represent a major source of revenue for Easter Island, the proceeds are not necessarily distributed fairly. Do locals believe that the mo’ai can deliver a sustainable economic future (that is, a future that benefits all inhabitants) to the island? What are locals’ views on the administration of the mo’ai park, which is run by the Chilean government, rather than Rapa Nui? Through these questions and others, I hope to shed some light on questions that are currently at the center of Rapa Nui politics, as demonstrated by the October 26 referendum on park co-administration.


Sophie Kapica

Middlebury School in Latin America, Chile
Foresting Patagonia

I am going to Reserva Nacional Cerro Castillo in the Región de Aysén in Patagonia, Chile in order to help with conservation efforts, specifically reforestation. Patagonia is a one of the world’s premier natural resources and forest fires and human intervention have caused the destruction of more than 3 million hectares in the Aysen and Magallanes regions. For this reason, reforestation is extremely important. Through this project, I hope to gain a better understanding of what challenges conservation efforts are facing in Chilean Patagonia and what needs to be done to overcome those challenges. As an Environmental Studies major at Middlebury with a focus in Economics, I am particularly interested in how humans and tourism have affected the region of Patagonia. I would like to learn more about what kinds of initiatives can be undertaken to reverse damage that has been down. I look forward to sharing my experience from this reforestation initiative with my fellow students in the Environmental Studies program upon my return to Middlebury and use my experience to contribute to conversations regarding conservation efforts in national parks.


Daniel Kim
Middlebury School in Latin America, Chile
Reforestemos Patagonia

I will be participating in a volunteer trip to Patagonia through a program called Reforestemos Patagonia (“Let’s Reforest Patagonia). The trip will take me to the Castillo Hill National Reserve in the region of Aysén, Chile. I will help plant trees over the course of five days and contribute to current efforts led by Reforestamos Patagonia to increase forest populations of trees native to Chile. In addition to tree planting, I look forward to learning about forest ecology in the greater Patagonian region as well as the current and projected states of Patagonian ecosystems.


Chloe Papier
Middlebury School in Latin America, Chile
Beavers as an Invasive Species in Tierra Del Fuego

For almost a month this November and December I will be living and working in Karukinka, a national park on the Chilean side of Tierra del Fuego. I will be working alongside park rangers and researchers from the Wildlife Conservation Society to conduct research of my own with the hope of developing this work into a thesis. This November the park will begin eradication efforts of the Canadian beaver which was brought to the island in the 1940s and whose population has continued to grow and spread throughout the island and the tip of South America causing environmental degradation in an otherwise almost pristine environment. These eradication efforts will include setting traps for the beavers and cameras and I will be looking at the effectiveness of these traps and watching the videos that will have been taken by the cameras. I look forward to be able to share my experience with my fellow classmates when I return to Wesleyan and am incredibly excited to get started on this project, furthermore I would like to thank Middlebury for making this wonderful opportunity a reality for me!


Murphy Quinn

Middlebury School in Latin America, Chile
After-School Gardening Program

I’m a currently studying abroad in Chile, working in a local elementary school with an after school gardening program. We teach the kids life skills like how to plant your own garden, the benefits of working with the land, and lots of information about sustainability in general. We also offer the kids a safe space to play in the dirt after class when their families are working.

The elementary school is very poor and lacks a lot of the basic materials need to create some basic infrastructure in the garden. For this reason, I am delighted to have the opportunity to apply for the grant, which will go towards buying material to build a green house and buy basic necessities.

With the money dedicated to this project we plan to buy soil, shovels, rakes, plastic, boxes, and other materials. We are building a greenhouse right now so that in the winter and summer we will be able to maintain the garden. Without the money that the program is providing we would not be able to make any of our goals realities.

It really is a huge help that I am able to apply for this grant and it is transforming a local school community into a place where kids can feel safe, play in the dirt, and learn about sustainability and the environment.


James Vahey
Middlebury School in Latin America, Chile
Field trip to explore health and sustainability topics

With the money from this grant I will be taking a group of students 1on an excursion to a large farm located outside of Valparaíso, which is run by a local university with the help of an organization, Manos Verdes. Manos Verdes is an environmental education initiative created in a partnership with Middlebury College Study Abroad Chile, which organizes excursions for underprivileged kids to natural environments in Chile. For many of the kids, the intimate experience with nature will be a first. We will take a tour of the farm, do a scavenger hunt and plant our own seeds to take home. In the short term, I hope the kids will have a personal connection with nature. I believe that in many ways, nature can have an invaluable therapeutic effect. Breathing the fresh country air, feeling dirt between your fingers and seeing the intricate details of nature can be a profound experience for kids who have not had the opportunity to do so in life. In the long-term, I hope that the students learn how healthy foods are grown, how accessible they are, and the importance of protecting the environment to maintain these agricultural habits.