The Dreaming Tree, photo by Maddie Pronovost, New Zealand
The Dreaming Tree, photo by Maddie Pronovost, New Zealand (Study Abroad Photo Contest)

Grants of up to $500 are available to students studying abroad through Middlebury College. Undergraduates studying at the Middlebury C.V. Starr Schools Abroad, as well as Middlebury students studying abroad on approved externally sponsored programs, are eligible for these grants.

Grants may be used for research projects or participation in events or projects related to sustainability issues; this may include projects or research that look at ways of reducing the human impact on the environment, enhancing social well-being, or economic development that addresses the environment and/or social well-being.

Click here for the grant application

Grant Recipients and Project Descriptions


Celeste Alden
Middlebury School in Chile
“Cultivating Community Sustainability: Parque Saval Urban Farm Workshop Series”
This project aims to build up the educational capacities of the urban farm located within Parque Saval in Valdivia, Chile. Over the past year, this community-driven farm has flourished, thanks to the dedication of volunteers and municipal staff. To further enhance its potential, this project proposes a series of workshops that will empower the volunteers with knowledge about local sustainable practices and initiatives, ensuring the farm’s continued growth and its role as a community education center. These workshops will also be open to the public, fostering a more equitable space for learning about vital sustainability topics. The proposed projects center around two workshops, one focusing on chromatography to analyze soil quality and another on ‘bosques comestibles’ (edible forests) led by local experts.

Natalia Smith
SIT Rwanda Post-Genocide Restoration and Peacebuilding 
“Mapping for Resilience: Combining Map-a-thons and Community Fieldwork for Disaster Preparedness in Three Rwandan Districts Prone to Devastating Flooding”
In May of 2023, heavy rain flooded part of Rwanda’s western and northern provinces. The impact was fatal, with 131 people losing their lives and close to 6,000 homes destroyed. The government has tasked OpenStreetMap Rwanda—the organization hosting my credit-bearing 5-week internship—with carrying out an anticipatory action mapping project to improve disaster management strategies. Focusing on the districts of Ngororero, Nyabihu, and Gakenke, we will use the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT) Task Manager to digitize vital data on flooding vulnerabilities. We will then visit the districts to conduct community fieldwork guided by informants and local experience, enabling us to enhance the digitization done online with further attributes. This grant will support the organization of a map-a-thon to bring together Kigali’s community of volunteer mappers and accelerate the digitization process. A blog post will be written to summarize the event and provide visualizations of the map-a-thon’s outcomes, with plans to publish it on the organization’s website, the HOT website, and possibly elsewhere to promote Rwanda’s contributions to sustainable development. 

Miracle Tapia
Middlebury School in Chile
“Encuentro Bi-Regional de Lideres y Lideresas”
Throughout my fall semester in Santiago, Chile I have been working with la Fundación para la Superacion de la Pobreza, an NGO working with the metropolitan branch helping with the organization of the first conference for the community leaders that they work with in the regions of Santiago and Valdivia. This conference will take place over two dates and will host over 70 climate activists across rural and semi-urban communities of Chile. Community leaders and Fundación staff have collaborated on the themes for the modules of the conference which will include mental health, communication, conflict transformation skills, collective mobilization, and strengthening social action. The goal of this conference is to build a network of support for these activists and for them to be able to learn from each other and feel confident to continue their leadership in their own communities using the skills they learned at the school.



Claire Babbott-Bryan

Middlebury School in Argentina

“Parks and Porteños: A Sociocultural Investigation of Green Spaces in Buenos Aires”

Green spaces are integral to everyday life in Buenos Aires. Parks and plazas represent critical portals to the ‘natural world’ in a concrete, dense, urban ecosystem. But Buenos Aires is among the least green cities in the world, with only 1.8 square meters of green space per capita. And this statistic fails to incorporate the implications of a world motivated by late capitalism and political interests: intersections of geography and class present large inequities regarding access to green spaces in the city.

My investigation’s trajectory is three-fold: First, I will visit each park within city limits to understand directly accessible green spaces. During these visits, I will conduct ethnographic field research to highlight and center local voices on the topic of urban environmental justice. Next, I will categorize each park based on its services to better classify its community contributions. Finally, I will map these insights to spatially display park proximity, benefits, and inequities in each city neighborhood.

With the support and wisdom of UBA’s Anthropology Professor Alejandra Rocas, this project will address green space access that is data-driven and community-informed, and possibly provide a reference for future conversations about Buenos Aires park access.

Sashinka Poor

Middlebury School in Chile

“Documenting the Trends and Experiences of Immigrant Students in Recolete Municipal Schools”

I am working with the Migrant and Refugee Program at the municipal government of Recoleta, a neighborhood in Santiago, to create a report about immigrant students in its municipal schools. I am analyzing data of the number of immigrant students in each from 2016, 2020 and 2022 to identify how the numbers and percentages have changed over the years using graph representations and statistical testing. I am also conducting a focus group with immigrant students in the schools to learn about their experiences and what could be changed in the schools to improve them. The results will be presented to municipal government staff members of the Migrant and Refugee Program and the Department of Education in the form of a presentation and a written report.



Hannah Ennis

Middlebury School in Chile

“Embodied Studies of Urban Wetlands that Uphold a City”

I am studying abroad in Valdivia, Chile, a growing urban city, built on an extensive wetland ecosystem. Through living in close proximity to urban wetlands, I have become fascinated with learning and immersing myself in the intersection of conservation, care, and sustainability with these ecosystems. I intend to use embodied research to explore conservation practices that can be learned from the urban wetlands and applied to address imminent threats of climate change. I will also research how community health mirrors the health of an ecosystem, and how we can derive a better understanding of ecological care from these interactions. Through exploring the movements of community members and of how ecosystems themselves respond, I aim to engage in the important conversation of climate catastrophe across languages and across disciplines.

Olivia Fulghum

Middlebury School in Chile

“Health and Sustainability Through Traditional Medicinal Herb Practices”

This semester, as part of my internship at CESFAM Reina Isabel II in Valparaíso, Chile, I have worked with a club of older adults as part of community outreach. Their principal concern, especially after two years of a pandemic that greatly minimized social interaction, is their mental health. As many of the women have an interest in gardening and its culture in Chile, it made sense to combine the emphasis of well-being with traditional medicinal practices. I am using this grant to host a workshop taught by an herbalist who will review the history of the various uses of native plants and teach participants a method to make a medicine from them. This workshop will focus on the intersection of health and sustainability, as these practices have a history of continuous use in Chile at the community level and can provide a way for these women to take charge of their self-care. Hopefully, in the future, this knowledge can lead to the development of a medicinal herb garden located at their center, providing a common ground for these women to work together and promote their well-being.



Mason Arndt

Middlebury School in Chile

“Sustainability through Compost and Recycling at Juan Jose Latorre”

As an intern for the ONG Endémica working in partnership with the elementary school Juan José Latorre in Valparaíso, Chile, we have been working to encourage sustainable practices and environmental awareness through the recuperation of an abandoned space on the school campus as well as the creation of a recycling system. We are working primarily through an after-school activity, which we teach ourselves, to educate students about the recycling and composting process. We are cleaning the previously abandoned space and installing a garden, a working compost with worms, and classroom-like materials to facilitate learning. Students will learn how to take care of the garden and the compost so that sustainable practices persevere through multiple generations of the school. The hope is to instill practical, sustainable habits that students will carry with them for years to come and later use to advocate for environmental sustainability while participating in such practices themselves. Additionally, we have begun to lay the groundwork for the broader, grander project of establishing a recycling system run between the local community and the school. As of now, the school’s neighborhood does not recycle. We want to initiate the collection of recycled materials from residents, carried through by students at the school, so that their campus can serve as a pickup point for the local municipality, ensuring the waste’s responsible disposal.


Maya Gomez

Middlebury School in Chile

“Composting in the National Botanical Garden of Viña del Mar”

This semester I am interning with the Environmental Education team in the National

Botanical Garden in Viña del Mar, Chile. Within the garden, I am working on developing a compost system that will be used to more efficiently recycle the organic material that is produced within the garden. The main focus of the compost system will be a three-tier vermicompost (or two). It will be placed next to the organic garden and nearby the picnic area so that visitors can easily observe, use, and learn about composting. It will also be included in workshops as a tool to help teach children and visitors about decomposition, nutrient cycles, to appreciate worms (and other decomposers), and more. The design of the vermicompost includes windows on each section so that visitors can see the processes in action, and will also be accompanied by a sign that informs visitors about the benefits of composting and how they might begin to compost in their own home. The hope is to also establish a few larger composts throughout the botanical garden for the large quantity of fallen leaves, grasses, and other plant matter.

Nicole Kormendi (Vassar College)

Middlebury School in Chile

“Migrant Health in the Centro de Salud Familiar Placeres”

A wave of immigrants has begun to shift demographics of the Chilean population in recent years, presenting the public sector with a new set of considerations to bear in mind. Migrants face multiple barriers to healthcare, from socio-cultural factors to environmental and economic ones. Through my internship at a community health center in the Placeres region of Valparaíso, the Centro de Salud Familiar Placeres (CESFAM Placeres), I have been organizing an initiative to assess and improve immigrant health. The foundational phases of this project have been based in conducting interviews with health professionals—doctors, nurses, social workers, psychologists, nutritionists, midwifes—and administering surveys to migrants from the sector to gain an informed understanding of the region’s needs and the center’s available resources. In order to address the language barrier faced specifically by Haitian immigrants, next steps include facilitating a Creole workshop for CESFAM staff, scheduled for November 16, as well as creating a booklet of translated phrases commonly used in the health center. I hope my work can fuel a continued effort to center the social determinants of health in a healthcare setting and to strive for culturally competent care through promoting candid, honest dialogue amongst providers and patients.

Alexandra Sobor (Wesleyan College)

Middlebury School in Chile

“Community Resources and Sustainability Workshop for Migrant Mothers and their Children”

In Santiago this semester I am interning in the Municipality of Recoleta, a comuna (commune or district) of the city. A large percentage of the population in Recoleta are immigrants, including the most marginalized group of immigrants in Chile, Haitians, who are discriminated against because of their skin color and language barrier. One particularly vulnerable subpopulation is Haitian mothers, often unable to work because of their children and thus far less likely to earn a living wage or learn to speak Spanish. In order to bridge the gap between the resources of the municipality and the population most at risk, I’m planning a three-part educational workshop to relay crucial information in Creole about the benefits and programs available in the municipality to these women. As a Haitian professor teaches that portion, I will lead the children’s workshop in which we cover topics such as Chilean culture, identity and racism, and environmental sustainability in Santiago.

Katharina Spear (Vassar College)

Middlebury School in Chile

“Molino-Polanco Sustainability Spring Festival”

In the sector adjacent to the Manuel Rodriguez Cultural and Community Center, shared by neighborhoods Molino and Polanco, a sports field and the surrounding terraces have become sites for waste dumping and delinquent activities due to the neglect of their upkeep. Through the convocation of a Spring Festival, we aim to rehabilitate this polluted public space for community use and create lasting social linkages using themes of environmental restoration and preventative health. On Saturday October 13, we will start the day by picking up trash and installing permanent trash cans with a group of volunteers. The festival will commence with a workshop to set up a neighborhood composter and medicinal garden with community members. Throughout the day, local vendors will have the opportunity to set up stands and sell their products. Our next activity is a co-ed soccer championship with adult and child categories. Finally, we will finish off the evening with performances by local musicians. Through the celebration of the resources offered by a shared space and the installation of tools that encourage community members to treat the area with care, we hope to start a process of community restoration and spacial recuperation that is echoed throughout Valparaíso.

Karina Zyatitsky (Middlebury College)

Middlebury School in Chile

“Environmental Education and Winter Hazards in el Parque Urbano ‘El Bosque’ ”

This semester, I am working in el Parque Urbano “El Bosque,” (Urban Park “The Woods”) in Valdivia, Chile, consisting of both a wetland and a native Valdivian forest with 3 kilometers of trails. The park offers environmental education, distinguishing it from other parks in the city although is something that could be strengthened. One of my tasks is to create a safety workshop to teach students and professors what it means to be outside in the winter and how to be prepared for the cold and the rain. My workshop will also involve aspects of sustainability/ environmental education including teaching principles of leave no trace and other human impacts on the natural environment. My second task is to find a solution for the slippery boardwalk in the park, where people can fall and hurt themselves, increasing in danger with the high amount of rainfall in the Valdivian winter. The boardwalk comprises the majority of the park’s trails and can be the only part of the park available for people of older age or with disabilities. Fixing this problem will not only decrease the risk of angry visitors due to an accident but also attract more visitors. Altogether, my tasks will allow for an increase in awareness of conservation and sustainability as well providing some answers for how to be in nature.


Marissa Donohue

Middlebury School in Cameroon

“Conservation Conversations: Understanding Environments in Urban and Rural Cameroon”

How does understanding of environmental conservation in an urban space differ from a rural space? What modes of communicating environmental issues are shared? From the city of Yaoundé to a rural “EcoVillage” in Bafut, I hope to map awareness and value for environmental issues such as water availability, climate change, and the health and wellbeing of humans and non-humans alike. My research will create an ethnography of observed conversations about the environment, contrasting the taxi-ride, street-side, and household dialogue of urban Yaoundé with the dialogue located in preservation sites such as Mount Cameroon. I am especially interested in areas of overlap, such as urban green spaces. I plan to revive or establish a community garden in Yaoundé as a lasting resource for community members, and I will mobilize my research to write up discussion questions and environmentally-themed conversation prompts based on my honest observations from listening to conversations among urban and rural Cameroonians. This discussion guide will remain with the garden site as a tool to continue thinking about ways to about environmental concerns and community-responsive conservation.

Anna Durning

Middlebury School in Chile

“Cuidamos Nuestro Medio Ambiente: Lombricultura y Material Reciclado”

Joyita del Pacífico is a pre-school located in the urban center of Valparaíso, Chile and committed to increasing environmental education programming in their classrooms. These efforts have included starting a small garden on their patio and buying wood or ceramic toys instead of plástic ones. With this grant, they are able to install a vermicomposting system that serves not just the school but is open to community members as well. In my work at the school, I will lead a series of activities with the students to leam about the importance of limiting the production of garbage and how vermicomposting works. Through storytelling, acting, singing songs, and actually participating in the daily tasks of maintaining a compost bin, they can gain an appreciation for the work that they are doing. By implementing this system, the school will not only lower its waste production but will demónstrate altemative methods to dispose of waste and créate fertilizer to sustain their growing garden.

Emily French

Middlebury School in Chile

“Mapping Valdivia’s Parque Urbano El Bosque: Environmental Education and Stewardship”

Located just three miles from the center of Valdivia, Chile Parque Urbano El Bosque is a beautifully preserved example of the expansive Valdivian Temperate Rainforest which lies beyond the city’s limits. In this way, El Bosque makes hands-on environmental education not only possible but easily accessible for the city’s residents. Environmental education is particularly important in this region which is home to the second largest, of five remaining, temperate rainforests in the world. With a Sustainable Study Abroad Grant, I plan to design and install a new park map for El Bosque’s front entrance to help visitors better understand the park’s ecological diversity. Additionally, with the help of the park’s educational coordinator, I hope to design and print several handheld maps which will facilitate an engaging, self-guided park tour for the many school groups who visit El Bosque. Helping visitors understand and more importantly connect with what they are seeing is essential to promoting the park’s mission: moving toward a more environmentally conscious, sustainable Valdivia.

Samuel Graf

Middlebury School in Chile

“Conservation within Karukinka National Park”

The focus of my project revolves around Karukinka National Park, in the Tierra del Fuego region of southern Chile. There, I will work to identify geologically significant points within the park in the interest of maintaining their magnitude and beauty. I will also help to further other conservation projects within the park, such as the management and eradication of the invasive beaver, in part by utilizing QGIS. Lastly, I will also help to create and contribute to the idea of a Middlebury Atlas, online geographic information system that can contain and catalog work done by students who participate in larger-scale projects through the Global Partnerships for Sustainability (GPS) program. For this, my project is a collaborative effort, as I am building upon the previous work that others have done before me, and in turn leaving my own contribution that other students can develop and improve in the pursuit and progress of further conservation in Karukinka.

Michael Nunziante

Middlebury School in Chile

“Canto Comunitario”

The idea behind this project is to engage the children in a marginalized community in Santiago through musical instruments and creative expression as a means to process and discuss issues that they experience within their living environment. The central plaza in this community, a space originally designed for outdoor activities, exercise, games and music, has been stolen from the children by the numerous members of the community who occupy it to abuse drugs and alcohol. The goal of my workshop is to empower the children to physically and psychologically reclaim this space as an area in which they can exercise their rights to play, share and express themselves in a safe and healthy environment. We will work together to learn instruments and songwriting skills, discover how the kids’ favorite songs are constructed, and form a community band to encourage teamwork and the positive exchange of ideas. Ultimately, the children will develop a space to reflect on issues in their own community in an entertaining and creative way.

Dorothy Punderson

Middlebury School in Chile

“Native Species of Valdivia: Environmental Education Posters”

This semester I have been working with Parque Urbano el Bosque, a small park in Valdivia focused on environmental education. The park is part of a network of urban nature reserves that have preserved native Valdivian forest, wetland, and other ecosystems inside the city for the public to enjoy. At Parque Urbano el Bosque I helped design three posters that show flora, fauna and fungi in the nature reserves. The posters strengthen this network of physically separated reserves by highlighting the ecosystems they have in common, and are a resource for the public to learn more about the natural areas that surround them.


Jessica Barnett (St. Michael’s College)

Middlebury School in Chile

“Health & Sustainability: Gaining Perspective through Gardening”

I will be volunteering for one week with the organization Tierra y Valle de los Niños. Located in Pisco Elqui, Chile, this organization educates children about sustainable living practices through the development of an organic garden. During my time with Tierra y Valle, I will provide a workshop for the children and incorporate key concepts learned this past semester from my public health and community and family nursing courses. Through an interactive activity during the workshop, my goal is to highlight the importance of the children’s participation with Tierra y Valle as well as help them to gain a global perspective. I look forward to capturing video of the experience and ultimately hope to demonstrate the impact of the garden on the development of the youth in the community. I would also like to say muchas gracias to Middlebury College for allowing me to have this experience!    

Sylvie Grenier

Middlebury School in France (Tufts University)

“Young adult attitudes about global climate change: Studying youth commitment to resolving societal problems”

It is infinitely beneficial, albeit challenging, to unite diverse groups of people. As a Child Study and Human Development major, I am especially interested in young adults who are on the verge of becoming active members of society as voters, scientists, political leaders, and policy makers. As environmental issues become severe and climate concern continues to grow, knowing how to unite future generations in climate action is critical; future leaders must be able to meet the challenges they will face. Thanks to the Middlebury Sustainable Study Abroad Grant, I will be able to collect data during my semester abroad in Paris, France, which will help me to understand the relationship between young adults’ environmental attitudes and behaviors, as well as their confidence in their abilities to address important issues and their willingness to do so. Ultimately, these findings will shed light on how young adults find common ground on environmental issues, a phenomenon that might then be generalized to include other societal issues. Whether considering environmental issues or other politicized issues, finding common ground is a critical aspect of policy making as it ensures that policies receive adequate support.

Abigail McCeney

Middlebury School in Chile

“Jardín Vertical”

During my semester in Valparaíso, Chile I have had the opportunity to intern with Corporación Municipal de Valparaíso in their education sector. As part of this internship I work once a week at a local school and help with their environmental workshop. The workshop is designed for older students, around the age of 15, who are eager to work with their hands on environmental projects that benefit their school and community. I will be using a Middlebury Sustainability Grant to fund a project that I can lead myself for the students of this workshop, a vertical garden made from recycled bottles. The reason behind building a vertical garden stems from my desire to teach children about sustainable food systems and projects that they can replicate in their own homes. Vertical gardens require little space and few materials, and therefore are good options for living in a city like Valparaíso. Through a step by step, simple construction process, I will help the students understand the importance and simplicity of growing your own food, and how to do so from simple infrastructure such as recycled juice bottles. Furthermore, I want to support the effort of Liceo Matilde Brandau Ross in their creation and expansion of green spaces and sustainable environmental education program.

Grace Monk (Brown University)

Middlebury School in Chile

“Memorias del Territorio”

With a Sustainability Grant, I’m hoping to finance a mural and workshop for children specifically focused around the theme of sustainability. The theme of the mural will be the diverse natural geography of Chile. As we run the painting workshop for children, we’ll discuss this region’s natural history and celebrate its geography. We’ll also discuss another kind of sustainability: sustainable community art. Street art has transformed Valparaíso in recent years, but it comes from a tradition of illegal graffiti. As we promote a sustainable form of community art, we’ll engage kids and community members with questions surrounding what art can bring to a community and how artists can gear their passions towards improving community spaces and awareness of crucial issues.

Sophia Ptacek (Wesleyan University)

Middlebury School in Chile

“Environmental Education with Valpo Surf Project”

I will be using a Middlebury Sustainability Study Abroad Grant during my semester in Valparaíso, Chile, to develop an environmental education project with Valpo Surf Project (VSP). VSP is a non-profit organization that works with children from vulnerable communities throughout the city teaching surfing lessons, English classes, and environmental stewardship. With the grant, I will be teaching a class and taking the students of VSP on an excursion with a focus on the coastal flora and fauna of Chile. The objective of the class will be to introduce the key concepts of ecology and ecosystems. The excursion, which will be led by a professional guide from the Red de Pequeños Ornitólogos (“Network of Small Ornithologists”), will consist of a tour of a local protected wetlands area known for its biodiversity in native birds and plants. The purpose of the class and excursion is to provide the students with an opportunity to learn about the flora and fauna of their local environment in an interactive and entertaining manner, with the ultimate goal of increasing their environmental awareness.


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.


Rachel Eisman

Middlebury School in Latin America, Chile

“Food Education”

With the support of Corporación Laguna Verde, an environmental organization based in Valparaíso, Chile, I will be creating a class for elementary and middle school aged children to teach them to be aware of where their food comes from.  Questions like, “Where was my food grown?” or “How was the farm worker who picked this food treated?” or “What chemicals were used in growing this food?” are important, but often overlooked questions when we sit down for a meal.  The purpose of this class will be to teach Chilean students to be mindful of their own food system, and give them the skills they need to start making changes in their own schools or homes.

Adriana Bräu-Díaz

Middlebury School in Latin America, Chile

“Locally grown: utilizing gardening as a tool for nutrition education”

The public elementary school system in Chile has actively worked to establish environmentally focused afterschool workshops for children from 1st to 6th grade. Working through these established workshops at Naciones Unidas public school in Valparaíso, Chile, I will be developing a nutrition workshop to teach in the context of the garden in where the children have been planting native trees and various vegetables and herbs over the past two years. These workshops are intended to show the students ways in which they can interact with their environment in a positive manner, specifically in ways that will benefit both their own health and the health of their environment. The grant will be used to fund an irrigation system in the garden so that it can expand into a larger space, and so that it can remain taken care of year-round, even when school is not in session, so that the plants will remain alive and well and the children can learn about all the benefits of gardening for years to come.

Anna Mei Gubbins

Middlebury School in Latin America, Chile

“Sowing a Better World: the Value of Stewardship”

During my semester in Chile, I have been working at La Escuela República Argentina, which is a public elementary school in Valparaíso.  This school has dedicated a significant amount of time and effort into developing an educational program that teaches students about environmental issues and establishing good habits to care for the environment.  The curriculum aims to incorporate classroom lessons and activities about environmental concerns with hands-on learning to reinforce the lessons. In the workshop, I will work with the children and teach them how to build wooden planters, plant seeds, water the plants, make compost, use the compost from their lunches to create fertile soil, and care for the plants that will grow. Then students will be assigned activities to help them reflect on the lessons they have learned in the classroom and share the information with their friends and families.  The aim is to create a ripple effect to help educate and enrich the entire school community as well as their individual homes.  

Stephanie Latour

Middlebury School in Latin America, Chile

“Alas Chileans” Local biodiversity through the study of birds

I’m working with the Laguna Verde Corporation to design and teach an educational workshop that will introduce and raise the awareness of children ages 9-12 about birds with a special emphasis on native species and costal and urban ecosystems located nearby. Our goal is to help the students recognize and form positive relationships with the local environments and their inhabitants so they will better understand and take active roles in their conservation. The lessons will include basic information about birds as well as how birds relate to culture and the environment as a whole. The children will also have the opportunity to visit and observe birds in nearby natural ecosystems that are outside of their usual experience during two short excursions.

Sofia Maluf

Middlebury School in Latin America, Chile

Field Trip With Students From La Escuela “El Bosque”

The purpose of this project is to take students from La Escuela “El Bosque”, a public school in Valdivia, Chile, on a field trip to local water and waste treatment facilities. This school is one of the few schools that is implementing and environmental education program into their curriculum, and part of the process of teaching students about the environment is helping them to understand that all of their actions have a consequence. In this case, seeing where water and waste is processed and treated will be very useful to them.

Morgan Raith

Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand

“IUCN World Parks Congress”

From November 11 to 20 I will be attending the IUCN World Parks Congress at the Olympic Park in Sydney. This event occurs once every ten years gathering world leaders and prominent environmentalists for a conversation aimed at improving global sustainability. As a student delegate I will be participating in a stream focused on inspiring a new generation of environmentalists. I hope to gain insight into educational strategies that encourage awareness about the human environment and how it relates to natural processes on a local and global scale. My ultimate goal is to return to Middlebury with ideas for a workshop or ongoing series of events that spark environmental awareness and bring together students from the college and nearby elementary schools.

Claudia von Nostitz

Middlebury School in Latin America, Chile

“The Greenhouse Effect: Integrating the Plastic Art into Environmental Studies”

I’ve had the privilege of interning with the Middlebury-founded organization, Manos Verdes, for the last few weeks, working with fourth graders from Escuela Pacífico, a local community elementary school, in an afterschool sustainability and environmental program.  We are working to teach the students the foundations of sustainable living, recycling, and green conscientiousness, through the process of renovating a greenhouse in the schoolyard, helping the children design and execute their own plans while fostering a safe, open, creative, and conscientious learning environment.  Through the investigation of ways to incorporate tactile styles of learning into through artistic expression, I have learned that environmental studies can be conducted with much more efficacy and leave long lasting impressions on the students when integrated with artistic teaching styles and strategies.  In terms of tactile or plastic artistic expression, there arises a very real way of reinforcing the themes of sustainability lessons through the execution of tactile, hands-on learning.  Through artistic education, students will have a way to contextualize and directly relate to themes of recycling, constructing, maintaining, and interacting with nature and the environment.


Erin Leddy

Middlebury School in Latin America, Chile

“Manos Verdes”

The organization Manos Verdes seeks to provide opportunities for hands-own exposure to the Chilean environment to underprivileged students through educational excursions.  This grant funded a trip to the “intertidal zone”, or the shallow part of the ocean that is affected most by the tides.  We went during a period of low tide to allow the students the ability to explore for themselves the incredible variety of living species that exist here.  During the activity, we discussed the adaptations necessary to surviving in such a challenging environment, the importance of conservation, and the ways in which each student could help to preserve Chilean ecosystems.  The hope is that these excursions will inspire in the students a love for the natural world and a curiosity to continue discovering more about it; it is through this type of early exposure that we believe we can create actual change.  Particularly in developing nations like Chile, impressing upon the next generation the importance of preserving the environment could help lead to the development of environmentally-friendly national infrastructure. Beyond all of that, it is a fun and exciting day for the kids—everyone got on the bus at the end of the day a little sandier and with huge smiles.  

Ezera Miller-Walfish

Middlebury School in Latin America, Chile

“Manos Verdes Outdoor Education Field Trip”

Manos Verdes is an environmental education project in Valparaíso, Chile that works to provide hands-on experience in the outdoors for students in underfunded public schools in the area. The project affords elementary and middle school students the opportunity to have direct contact with nature in the hope that it will foster within them a positive approach to the environment. Many of the students that participate in activities with Manos Verdes have never had the chance to experience nature directly and most of the schools lack the resources to provide such an opportunity. I, with logistical assistance from Southern Nature and funding from this grant, will be organizing and leading an interactive field trip to a woodland area outside of Valparaíso, Chile. The trip invites the students to become “nature detectives” as they discover the secrets of the woodland kingdom and learn through observation and analysis the life cycles of the native species and the interactions that occur during the changing of the seasons. I hope that this experience will not only teach the students about the natural world that surrounds them, but will also inspire them to preserve and treasure it.

Erica Van Sciver

Middlebury School in Latin America, Chile

“Manos Verdes/EXPLORA: Fostering Enriching Sustainability Experiences for Santiago’s Youth”

Through a partnership between the organizations Manos Verdes and EXPLORA, my project brought 45 Santiago students to the coastal locale of Quintay. In keeping with Middlebury’s mission of promoting sustainability, the fundamental goal of this undertaking was to organize an excursion where students could not only learn more about the environment, but also about their own role in preserving delicate ecosystems. During the excursion, students participated in hands-on learning experiences that teach them about the particular marine ecosystems of Quintay, the challenges of environmental conservation, and their own capacity to promote positive environmental change. Above all, I hoped to provide students with an experience in which they could take ownership of their own learning and recognize their place in the world as environmentally conscious citizens as they continue with their education and beyond. 


Clara Maeder

Middlebury School in Latin America, Chile

“Manos Verdes/Green Hands: Environmental Education to Promote Sustainability”

This project seeks to build upon the progress that has been made by Manos Verdes, an environmental education initiative for at-risk youth in Chile by investigating and working towards fulfilling the environmental and experiential education needs of Valparaíso public school students, many of whom do not have many opportunities to experience learning outside of their classrooms nor explore the environments that exist around their city. The culmination of this project will be educational excursions for elementary school classes of at-risk and underfunded Valparaíso public schools; students will explore local ecosystems, using all of their senses to learn about the natural world around them and how they can work to preserve it. By using nature as a platform from which to base educational experiences, I hope to create a space for young students to meaningfully connect with their environment, developing a love of nature and a desire to preserve our planet.

Elizabeth Foody

Middlebury School in Latin America, Chile

“Promoting Sustainability Through Environmental Education: A Field Trip to the Botanical Garden”

I believe that one of the best ways to promote sustainability is through environmental education. Many Valparaíso schools do not have the resources to give their students the opportunity to experience and connect with nature. My project works along side Manos Verdes, a partnership program between Southern Nature and Middlebury in Chile, to give students from an underfunded Valparaíso school more exposure to nature and environmental education. With this project, I will coordinate and prepare an interactive and educational class visit to the Botanical Garden in Viña del Mar where the students will have the opportunity to learn and interact with nature.

Leif Castren

Middlebury School in Latin America, Chile

“Manos Verdes field trip to the Mantagua wetland”

This sustainable study abroad grant funded a field trip to a protected coastal wetland north of Viña del Mar, Chile for an entire 5th grade (40 students) from a middle school in urban Santiago. The course was transported to the site by bus and enjoyed a full day of environmental education activities that included lessons on the ecosystem services of wetlands, how to become a naturalist by observing and asking questions, and how to care for native flora and fauna. Many of the 5th graders had never been to a wetland or received in-field education on plants, animals, or ecosystems. Exchange students from Middlebury’s College in Chile led and organized the activities with guidance from tourism professionals who oversee Manos Verdes, an organization founded by a Middlebury student to provide children in under-funded urban schools with opportunities for hands-on interactions with nature to cultivate ecosystem awareness, sustainable practices, and, most importantly, a love of learning. Beyond the academic learning associated with the field trip, we also taught the kids to kayak and gave them free time to play and explore the wetland on their own. We finished the project by making a promise with our students: to continue exploring, learning about, and caring for our natural surroundings. The project was hugely rewarding both for myself, a Middlebury student studying for a year in Valdivia, other leaders and organizers, and, above all, the 5th graders who it was all for.


Benjamin Bates

Middlebury School in China (Kunming)

“A Historical, Social, and Medical Investigation of Chinese Traditional Medicine”

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is an important component of Chinese culture and history.  But the understanding and use of TCM is not static.  In fact, just as TCM has been shaped through thousands of years by philosophies and religions throughout East Asia, the concept of TCM is being shaped by forces that originally acted against and eventually succumbed to an impartial and inexorable force known as globalization.  Globalization has allowed the means for rapid technological developments, but has also enabled certain cultures, traditions, and philosophies to be overrun by external influences.  In order to recognize how to harness globalization as a force able to advance technology, grow economies, and improve international health while also allowing the preservation of humane cultures and traditions, we must understand how the forces of globalization have been influencing cultures and traditions – leading to my research question, “How are the concepts and practices of TCM being shaped by the forces of globalization?”

Stuart Fram

SIT Madagascar: Natural Resource Management and Biodiversity Conservation

“Reconciling Environmental Conservation and Economic Development in Madagascar’s Andringitra National Park” 

Considered one of twenty-five global biodiversity hotspots and one of eight megadiversity countries, Madagascar features incredibly high levels of endemism with both its flora (89% endemic) and fauna (82% endemic). Unfortunately, such fecundity is largely negated by Madagascar’s weak economy, which is fueled primarily by subsistence farming and the practice of slash-and-burn agriculture, or tavy. One region within the country where this conservation/development enigma is particularly relevant is the Andringitra mountain range, home to Andringitra National Park. Containing over 100 species of birds, over 50 species of mammals (13 species of lemurs, which are 100% endemic to Madagascar), 55 species of frogs, and more than 1,000 species of plants, the park functions as the central link in the longest unbroken chain of rainforest remaining in Madagascar, stretching from Ranomafana National Park in the north to Pic Boby in the south. However, three different cultural groups – the Betsileo, the Bara, and the Tanala - live within the boundaries of the park and have cleared much of the lowland forests through tavy to survive. Independent researchers and organizations like the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) have taken it upon themselves to work with the local residents to develop new resource management strategies (often involving ecotourism) that counterbalance harmful agriculture whilst stimulating the local economy, but after roughly 15 years, the WWF has released little regarding the progress/results of their endeavors. While an underlying goal of the projects has been to maintain the cultural integrity of the Betsileo, Bara, and Tanala people, one is left to ponder at the dearth of published results. Through a month-long experiential investigation involving immersion with the local people, interviews with organizations like the WWF, and independent research, I hope to gain a better contextual understanding of the conservation/development situation in Andringitra National Park and shed light on the current state of continued efforts through promoted transparency and evaluation. The resulting paper will hopefully function as a barometer for the effectiveness of similar types of aid-related work being carried out in other parts of Madagascar, as well as in other countries in Africa.

Joshua Kessler

Middlebury School in Chile

“Huerto Orgánico (Organic Garden)”

The goal of this project is to teach students at the Liceo Pablo Neruda in Santiago, Chile how processes within our environment occur, how our actions effect these processes, and what actions we must take to maintain a sustainable environment.  These lessons will be delivered in an engaging manner with the majority of the learning occurring through the students’ transformation of the neglected area behind their classroom into a thriving garden with its own greenhouse and compost system.  Furthermore, this garden will become a supplementary laboratory which will be used by all science classes to support relevant material outside the textbook.  Additionally, it is the hope of this project that the students will apply the knowledge gained from creating and managing the organic garden through their daily actions.  Lastly, this project seeks to create a positive relationship between Middlebury College and the Liceo Pablo Neruda for future endeavors that will be mutually beneficial to both institutions.

Gillian Lui

Middlebury School in China (Kunming)

“Photographic Representations of Environmental Values Among China’s Youth”

The world’s leading emitter of carbon dioxide and a country notorious for its stories of environmental degradation involving species extinctions and waterway pollution, China is also the world’s leading investor in renewable energy technology and, just in the past 15 years, has witnessed the establishment of more than 3,500 environmental non-governmental organizations. While these seemingly contradictory phenomena may lend a sense of unpredictability to China’s future involvement in global environmental initiatives, what is undeniably clear is the immense power that China’s up-and-coming youth possess in defining the environmental attitudes and actions that China as a society will ultimately choose to practice. Through Middlebury’s Sustainable Study Abroad Grant, I aim to research components of the environment that China’s youth value most today, with a focus on how these perspectives might differ depending on geographic and sociocultural context. I will ask university-aged students from Beijing, China’s industrialized economic and political capital; Kunming, an environmentally engaged and developed city within a province designated as a Global Biodiversity Hotspot; and rural, ethnic minority villages of Yunnan Province to capture, through photography, particular aspects of their surroundings that represent or define what the environment means to them, in hopes of identifying parts of their environment that fundamentally possess value to them. These entities may, in turn, represent components of their environment that they would be more willing to sustain and work towards maintaining in the future. Understanding which aspects of the environment that China’s youth truly value, and thus parts of the environment about which China’s youth may likely be more concerned, will provide invaluable direction for the proactive development of future, environmentally oriented efforts that may be more sustainable and well-received among China’s youth, due to their direct relevance to the youth’s interests.

Maya von Wodtke

Middlebury School in Chile

“Conservation of Concón Wetlands”

The wetlands of Concón have been identified as a site of high importance to central Chile’s biodiversity, and in particular the migratory bird species that flock here in all seasons.  As this site is in danger due to human impact, I was inspired to involve the community in the clean-up, reforestation, and enclosure of the area.  Not only will this project allow the ecosystem to recuperate, but through community involvement in the green-up and planting of native tree species, the project will generate awareness about the importance and richness of the Mediterranean ecosystem.  Furthermore, this will serve as a lasting site for bird watching, fostering a stronger connection to the environment, and appreciation of native species.

Lauren Yang

Danish Institute For Study Abroad and Middlebury School in China

“Smart Cities— What a Growing Monolith can learn from Copenhagen”

The 21st century will be ruled by the city. Though they occupy only 2% of the landmass of the Earth, they consume over 75% of the Earth’s resources. Today, more than half of the world’s population lives in cities, with that percentage growing rapidly. In China alone, it is projected that 350 million people will move to cities in 2030 and to accommodate this growing population, China is hurriedly building new cities from the ground up. The agriculture industry is steadily decreasing and rapid urbanization is taking effect. Keeping this in mind, countries like Denmark, Sweden, and Finland are building new cities as showcases for innovation, talent and design, preventing this urbanization from becoming an environmental disaster by creating faster, smarter, clearer and more intelligent urban environments— “Smart Cities”.  With my grant, I plan to document this growing “Smart City” phenomenon. I will be documenting my experiences and travels through video blog posts, observing and recording my observations on new development projects and reflecting on my time in China. At the end of the semester, I will compile these posts into a short documentary. With my classes Integrated Sustainability (Architecture) and Sustainability in the Alps, I will also be traveling to other regions at the absolute forefront of sustainable design, including Stockholm, Sweden; Helsinki, Finland; Vorarlberg, Austria; and the small, Danish island, Samsø, which became 100% renewable and environmentally sustainable energy in only ten years. I will be biking, visiting climate-friendly public housing projects, traveling to various Smart Cities, learning about passive solar techniques, and figuring out how we can build cities for the future.


Michael Dickerson

Middlebury School in Latin America, Chile

“Ecoturismo sobre dos ruedas/Ecotourism on Two Wheels” 

It is my aim in this project to create the initial drive that will carry sustainable bike tourism to greater prominence in Chile.  To accomplish this Claudio Lillo and I will be documenting bike trips to various tourist destinations, both established and yet unheard-of, both near and far, and assessing the practicality of eating local in these destinations.  In keeping with overarching theme of sustainability, we will be ever mindful of the impact that our presence will have on the host culture and economy.  With several trips outlined and several contacts made in the bike business, I hope to set up a framework by which others can further this project after I return to the states.  Finally, I hope to publish and promote our trips in order to raise interest in the option of bike tourism in Chile.

Lorena Dariana Espinoza Guerrero

Middlebury School in Latin America, Mexico

“Las voces de la Tierra – The voices of the Earth”

I will be cooperating with IMDEC- Instituto Mexicano de Desarrollo Comunitario (Mexican Institute for Community Development) in an environmental education program with children in an area of Guadalajara, Mexico, called La Huizachera. This area is located right next to the Ahogado river system, which serves as the disposal place for several industries along the canal. Due to the lack of regulations and laws protecting the environment, several toxic elements finish in this river, making its waters untreatable and dangerous when in contact to humans. The project seeks to give the children a rational approach to their social reality, encourage them to reflect on how they see their natural environment, give them tools that will allow them to see the world in a new way, and teach them to use their voices as tools for change. The hope is that the children will be able to understand their realities and will believe they are able to, and can generate change. The program will include activities that will teach them about the water cycle, contamination, and human rights. At the same time the children will participate in the production of a photographic exhibition and the creation of a video presenting the reality of the people that live near the river and how they are affected by it. Through these I hope to use a perspective that has not been use before, that of the children, and I expect it to serve as a tool for the social fight for the right of clean water and for the implementation of proper legislation that will control the production of polluting substances in the area. Furthermore I hope these material will help the children see themselves as tools for change and will represent the importance of teaching the youth about the environment. My believe is that by representing the phenomena affecting the area, the children will become aware of the problem, by explaining the problem, their understanding of it will improve ,and this improvement will lead them to develop ideas that can generate change.

Jue Yang

Danish Institute for Study Abroad, Denmark

“The Intention of Public Art Fair: Reflections on Community”

To define, create and sustain a community where humans interact with their best intentions is key to developing a healthy and balanced world. In order to translate this vision into concrete actions that pertains to the Danish society, I will collaborate with the organizers and participants of a Copenhagen citywide public art event. The annual fair, named “Alt_Cph In Space,” has invited 20 artists as well as the local community to reflect on the space in which they are building. By interviewing different parties of this event, I will reflect on the concept of community as a shared space and experience. How much will the event, through the means of art, impact the community? How self-sustaining are these community-building efforts in a long run? Could it be a model for social entrepreneurship in other countries? I will present my answers and remaining questions in the form of an audio slideshow. In the spring, I will organize an open forum on campus that facilitates discussions and actions on this topic.

Bianca Giaever

International Honors Program, New York, India, Senegal and Argentina

“Public Parks in Urban Cities”

This Spring I will visit four completely different major cities in a short period of time: New York, Delhi, Dakar, and Buenos Aires. Over the course of the semester I will conduct a series of interviews to find out how parks are enhance social well-being. I will consider the human need for elements of nature even within major cities. I will also study what makes a park enjoyable, and how parks reflect cultural ideas of entertainment, pleasure, and relaxation. How is a park used and how does it gain its reputation? I will even ask myself if parks can be considered a legitimate sustainability effort. My interviewees will span over different generations. Perhaps parks hold a different meaning between generations, or maybe they are able to bring these different generations together.

Katie Siegner

Middlebury School in Latin America, Chile

“Sustainability Outreach in the Valparaiso Community”

I believe that the fundamental first step on the ladder towards a green society is education.  With that in mind, I designed a project with two inter-related goals: first, to interview households in the Valparaiso area in order to assess the current state of environmental awareness; and second, to design and implement an education outreach campaign aimed at increasing awareness of how to live a greener lifestyle.  This project will culminate in an interactive, multimedia presentation upon my return.

Duna Tatour

University of East Anglia, England

“The role of university students in advocating for sustainable lifestyle”

My interest is to explore the role of university students in advocating for sustainable lifestyle. My project will focus on a group of students studying in the liberal arts program at the University College Maastricht in Holland. For the past year, this group has been residing in a squat building near the university and is determined to adopt, exercise and advocate sustainable living habits. The group is extremely diverse in terms of nationality, personal background, experience and academic interests, but nevertheless, their common interest in creating a sustainable and environmentally friendly lifestyle brought them together. My intention is to spend a few days with this community of students in order to gain insight into the power and ability of students my age who are living and advocating for a sustainable lifestyle. I will create a short documentary film that will integrate personal interviews and footage of their everyday life. Since University College Maastricht offers one of the only English speaking liberal arts programs in Europe, I believe that this is a rare opportunity to examine the value of liberal arts education and its application to ‘real life’. This project will demonstrate the role of our generation in advocating sustainable development and provide indicators to the strategies that students use at a micro level in creating sustainable communities.


Shannon Engelman

SIT Tanzania

“A vegetation study in the coral rag forest”

Jozani-Chwaka Bay National Park, established in 2005, is the only national park in Zanzibar, TZ, meaning that it is the largest remaining forest area on the entire island. Conservation efforts began in the 1950’s, when local villagers realized that their demands for building materials and fuelwood could not be met if deforestation continued at its alarming rate. Over time, the area of the protected forest has increased and now includes five distinct vegetation types, including mangrove forest and a coral rag forest. The park is also home to half of the world’s population of Red Colobus Monkeys, who are endemic to Zanzibar. I will be using my Sustainable Study Abroad Grant to increase knowledge about the coral rag forest and to improve tourism in the forest, since tourism is the primary source of income for the forest itself, as well as many of the local people who are employed by Jozani. The first goal of my project is to conduct a vegetation study in the coral rag forest to determine if the vegetation is changing with time. Next, I will clear a tourist trail through the coral rag forest, since the trail system currently does not include a coral rag trail. The third goal is to produce a map of the trails for tourists using GIS, and the last goal is to design a tourist brochure to provide them with detailed information about the forest. My overall goal is to enhance the tourist experience so that the National Park will continue to receive funds to pursue their conservation activities in this forest that faces extreme pressure from local communities.

Nora Hirozawa

Middlebury School in Latin America, Argentina

2-Part Project:

“350 Buenos Aires - Marcha en Bici”

On October 24th 2009, thousands of people from around the world will unite to support sustainable actions as part of the international day of climate action coordinated by In Buenos Aires, a city of reputably reckless bus traffic and dangerous streets for cyclists, hundreds will gather at the central Plaza de Mayo for a mass bicycle march through the microcenter of Buenos Aires, ending in front of the Casa Rosada, the primary government building in Argentina. In addition to demonstrating sustainable conscience in the weeks leading up to the climate talks in Copenhagen, the bicycle march will also function as a protest for the right to alternative transportation within the city

“Los Cartoneros: the unofficial recycling phenomenon in Buenos Aires”

In terms of sustainability, one of the most striking contrasts between Buenos Aires and many other cities of comparable size is not only the fault of a centralized recycling system, but the presence of unofficial “cartoneros” that fill this need. Cartoneros can be found throughout the night on nearly every street corner in the city, selecting garbage which they then carry out to the Buenos Aires province in carts, or sometimes carts pulled by horses. In unofficial recycling centers in the suburbs of the capital, the cartoneros are then paid for the delivery of sorted garbage. This decentralized phenomenon of recycling appears to be recognized by the government, but has yet to be coordinated on any sort of municipal or national scale. In this project, I aim to investigate the fine line between the official and the unofficial in the recycling system in Buenos Aires, as well as the origin of the cartoneros, whose position is distinct from general garbage diggers. Through this investigation, I also hope to demonstrate the benefits and disadvantages to having a decentralized system of recycling.

Kaitlynn Saldanha

Middlebury School in Latin America, Argentina

“Sustainable Development in Patagonia”

In today’s increasingly globalized world, developing nations face a dilemma: should development come at the cost of sacrificing environmental concerns, or should the environment take priority over development? As a developing nation with an emerging economy, Argentina faces this constant challenge. In Patagonia for instance, the “internationalisation” of land as it has been named, involves the Argentine government allowing large tracts of land to be sold off to the highest bidder; the rich and famous around the world rapt by the area’s pristine charm and vastness. Despite conservation efforts, Patagonia shelters some of the newest and most extensive development projects within Argentina. Although not all of the projects are unsustainable, the majority share a common flaw: the land being used is inhabited by indigenous communities whose ancestors have lived off the land for centuries. At the end of my semester in Buenos Aires, I plan to spend a month investigating the status of sustainable development and the “global land grab” currently taking place in Patagonia. Is Patagonia another example of how industrialization, modernity, and economic interests are seizing the few virgin lands and its people that still remain? What do current sustainability initiatives in Patagonia look like, what problems exist, and what can we learn from them? Through my investigation I hope to foster a sophisticated understanding of the status of sustainable development in Patagonia in an effort to reveal Argentina’s role as an emerging leader in the global economy.

Jonas Schoenefeld

Middlebury School in Latin America, Chile

“Sustainable University Initiative Chile”

Environmental issues, whether global warming, ozone depletion or overfishing, require university programs that provide a global vision, but also knowledge and skills to find future solutions that benefit all of humanity. To date, according to Manfredo Langer Ramirez of Chile’s CONAMA (Comisión Nacional del Medio Ambiente—National Environmental Commission), a government organization, Chile has no university programs that teach students a global perspective, such as the Environmental Studies Program at Middlebury College. What’s more, this lack of programs is accompanied by limited current initiative of Chilean universities to engage in sustainable practices as well as student bodies that are generally unconcerned about pressing environmental issues. In recent years, however, Chile has experienced a growth in environmental concern which is slowly manifesting itself at many levels of society. The goal of this project is hence to support an initiative by CONAMA that brings together university administrators from the Metropolitan Region of Santiago (Chile’s capital), student representatives as well as government officials to initiate sustainability programs at university level. Working as a liaison between Middlebury College and Chilean universities, I’m planning to tap into decades of experience in sustainable practices and programs at Middlebury College to provide examples, suggestions and active support for this growing Chilean environmental movement.

Melissa Segil

Middlebury School in Latin America, Uruguay

“Getting Montevideo to 350- Starting at la Playa Pocitos”

The goal of our project in Uruguay is to raise awareness about the climate change reality facing both our local and global communities. On October 24th, communities around the world will rally behind the number 350, and call on our world leaders to support strong climate change legislation in Copenhagen. Here in Montevideo, we will host a potluck picnic at la Playa Pocitos (Pocitos Beach) and invite students, families, friends, and professors to get involved. There we will also distribute educational materials about what 350 means, how this number affects us and how we affect it, and how we as individuals can help get to 350. We are hoping to get “350 Goals” as well: 350 individual commitments to reduce their contributions to climate change. The day before the international day of 350 actions, along with the help of the Univerisidad ORT, we will host a presentation from a professor specializing in sustainable tourism, followed by discussion and a screening of “An Inconvenient Truth.” We will also have a panel discussion regarding the ways each person contributed to climate change and can reduce their impact on the environment. We invite everyone to get involved! As individuals, we are the most direct way to get to 350 as soon as possible.

Luke Eastman

Middlebury School in Latin America, Chile

“A National Survey of Chilean Attitudes Towards Littering on Beaches”

The presence of litter on Chile’s beaches is a serious problem, disrupting wildlife, polluting the water, and damaging the beauty of the country’s vast coastline. The majority of the trash comes from the Chilean people, not from international sources. To help solve this problem, we need to first determine the attitudes of the Chilean people, such as: how much they value the country’s coastline, what they think should be done about littering, what kind of person litters and how often, whether they are aware of its effects, and how willing they are to take personal initiative to solve the problem. Thus, we will conduct a national survey of the Chilean populace with the goal of submitting the results for publication in an academic journal.

Brittany Lehnhart

Middlebury School in France

“Slow Food: Tradition meets Sustainability in European Culture and Cuisine”

“Good, clean and fair food” is the mantra of the Slow Food International, an organization dedicated to encouraging the tradition behind local food. This movement was quick to take hold in the European countries of Italy, France and Spain in which an elemental adoration of food already existed; however, across the Atlantic it has had little impact. Slow Food emphasizes equal dedication to pleasure and responsibility. Much of its efforts are to increase consciousness of the environmental implications of mass produced and processed food. In the US approximately 40 - 50% of the food produced goes to waste each year. It seems shocking that a large urban city, like Paris, France, can eat more locally than towns in the American Midwest, however, big American capitalism and the food industry have drowned out small farms and local business. Here in the United States we have departed from closeness to our food. We have replaced corner bakeries with large overbearing super stores that sell vegetables in boxes and toilet paper. We have become a culture of fast food and pseudo-natural ingredients. A recent eco-friendly push has revolutionized green food options with the booming organic industry, yet it remains an industry only accessible to the elite. The corner bakeries that don every European street corner are still owned by the same families, serving the quality ingredients from the same local providers they have relied upon for centuries, and what is more, their clientele represents all walks of life. During a semester observing the culture, tasting the food, and speaking with the people, in addition to close work along side Slow Food France, I intend to ascertain a new understanding of sustainable eating practices, one not based on a fad, but centuries of cultural molding that have lead to automatic and natural eco-friendly eating habits. I hope to return with fresh ideas to compliment the current environmental food movement with insight into its practicality and accessibility to all Americans.

Jia Liu

Middlebury School in Germany

“Low Carbon Technology and Policy in Europe”

European countries such as Germany, England, Demark and Norway are world leaders on pursuing low carbon economy, an economy which has a minimal output of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions into the biosphere. Low carbon economy not only helps maintain a sustainable environment, but also creates a healthy framework for economic development. The main concerns from contries around the world, however, are the high cost and the potential harm on economy of this pathway. Although the countries attending 2009 Copenhagen Conference did not reach an optimal accord to prevent climate change due to concerns and even suspicion, the final agreement showed positive movement towards a greener economy. During my semester abroad in Berlin, I plan to research independently about the newest technology available in Germany, England, Demark and Norway and their policy in pursuing a sustainable development with low carbon footprint. I will be using the grant to make contact and visit renewable energy factories and farms. My goals are (1) to gain knowledge about the successful low carbon development in these four countries, and (2) conduct a study (or senior thesis) about the potential application of low carbon economy on other contries, especially developing countries.

Rachel Ochako

CIEE Senegal

“Harmonization of conservation and development is a reality”

Fish, a meal I love having grown up by the shores of L.Victoria. Fish is also a meal found in bounty in just a few places, yet enjoyed heartily worldwide. In Senegal, fish makes up the largest percentage of exports. Like other fishing industries around the world, it has begun to show signs of declining fishing stocks from over fishing. Not more than five years ago, the Senegal government undertook a cooperative project with WWF to ensure sustainable fishing in order to prevent rapid depletion of fish stocks through WAMER (WWF’s West African Marine Ecoregion).My research aims to see the benefits of this program. I aim to prove that development and environmental conservation can be harmonized, even though at first glance it appears that this program would have reduced earnings of fishermen by cutting fishing stock. And finally, I aim to observe whether this harmonization is a reality at the grassroots level, meaning, is conservation still a foreign idea imposed by authorities, or is it well understood by the artisan fishermen.

Danyang Zhao

Middlebury School in China

“Transportation and Air Pollution in Modern China”

City design defines how people live, feel, work, and travel. A well-planned metropolis can minimize its own ecological footprint by reducing resource and energy use. For many cities, the main infrastructure is its transportation system. In recent years, China has become the fastest growing car consumer in the world. Images of cyclists crowding busy intersections have been largely replaced by daily scenes of congested highways and polluted skies. The proliferation of cars in China, as it historically has in many other countries, has led to significant environmental impacts. Most notably, in the summer leading up to the 2008 Olympic Games, Beijing had been widely criticized for the intensity of its air pollution. Automobiles, as a significant contributor to smog, were banned in the city during important days of the event. How the growing country plans to balance between economic growth and the health of its citizens is an important topic that deserves international attention. The project will draw on my experience in Beijing and Hangzhou, both historic cities now adapted to a modern world. As an increasing number of Chinese citizens move to the cities, how will city planners respond to the challenges of the future? Will there be a movement for more highways or subways? In my time at China, I hope to gain insight into the future of Chinese cities, and explore how the growing car culture has affected the air quality of the cities and the lifestyles of its residents.


Kat Hartley

Sophia University, Japan

“Organic Farming in Japan”

The success of organic farming in Japan must confront some of the most fundamental attitudes held by Japanese society. I am currently living in Tokyo, one of the most densely populated areas of the world, and each time I enter a supermarket I find produce of the same size and shape perfectly arranged on the shelves, each apple and pear and carrot showcasing an unnatural uniformity. Despite traditional Shinto beliefs in the importance of respecting nature, modern Japan seems to take a capitalistic approach to agriculture, emphasizing efficiency of land use and aesthetically-pleasing packaging over sustainability or nutrition. To learn more about how small, self-sufficient organic farms survive in Japan I will spend my two month break between semesters working on an organic farm in rural Japan through the Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms program. Through this experience I hope to gain a firsthand understanding of the problems Japan faces as an island country with limited resources trying to feed teeming metropolises like Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto and many other cities. Is it feasible for organic farming to thrive on a large scale in Japan? Could Japan feed itself through organic farming? At the end of these two months I will synthesize my experience and research by creating a photo collection with captions that will explain what I’ve learned about Japan’s agricultural past, present, and possible future.

Stephanie Joyce

Universidad Austral de Chile (Middlebury School in Latin America)

“Glacial Meltwater as an Urban Resource”

Home to the largest glaciated areas outside of Antarctica and Greenland, Chile’s glaciers provide freshwater and hydroelectric power to most of the country. These glaciers are rapidly disappearing, raising questions about the supply of freshwater and electricity that will be available to urban populations in the coming decades. I plan to explore the impact of glacial retreat and climate change on urban population centers. In particular I will investigate the recent announcement that the Glaciar Echaurren, which forms Santiago’s principal water source, is likely to disappear within the next 50 years. Although this is the only such announcement that has made international news, I will also investigate the outlook for smaller cities where similar disappearances are expected. By speaking to hydrologists, glaciologists and urban planners I hope to learn what plans are being made to compensate for this looming water crisis and what changes will have to be made to the urban landscape.

Deanna Tamborelli

Universidad Antonio Ruiz de Montoya (University of Virginia), Peru

“Saving Peru’s Waterways: The Effectiveness of Grassroots Environmental Activism”

Grassroots organizations have always seemed to me the purest, most altruistic form of activism. However, some people argue that while grassroots organizations are great in an idealistic sense, they may not be the most effective because they lack the resources (human and monetary) to bring about real change. I plan to explore this question during my semester studying in Lima, Peru. A small grassroots organization called Ecoplayas has been working since 1997 to preserve beaches and coastal areas of Peru. I hope to interview and to work alongside its members to gain an understanding of their successes and failures. I will then compare Ecoplayas to the Clinton Foundation’s top-down approach to environmental activism as well as to grassroots environmental activism being done inland in Puno on the outskirts of Lake Titicaca. In exploring these comparisons I hope to come to a better understanding about activism as a whole and to better understand the pros and cons of different types of environmental activism.


Cully Cavness

University of Otago, New Zealand

“New Zealand’s Geothermal Power – Geology and Production”

New Zealand in a world leader in geothermal power production. The country has 129 functioning geothermal sites, and it is my intention to understand the geology and operations underlying that prolific resource development. To achieve this, I will identify the geologic processes and structures that best facilitate geothermal power production. Additionally, I will review the cultural, economic, and political circumstances that have motivated the movement to geothermal resources. Hopefully these findings will be applicable to Middlebury and the United States as our communities attempt to change the landscape of American energy consumption.

Allison Conley

Middlebury School in France

“Sustainability in Modern Parisian Architecture”

How does France emphasize sustainability in its modern architectural design? I will be exploring this question by visiting architectural sites in France, particularly in Paris, interviewing architects and professionals, and studying the current architectural news. With sustainability being such an important issue, I am investigating the ways in which French architecture implements green design concepts and sustainability. Paris has always been highly regarded for its architecture and is now in the modern world moving in a sustainable direction. My research will be presented by a visual book or poster presentation to graphically display the sustainable design.

Samuel Lazarus

Middlebury School in China

“Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Analysis of Chinese Factories Proximities to Local Watersheds and their Respective Impacts on Water Supplies”

I will be working with Chinese scientist Ma Jun (named to TIME Magazine’s 100 people that influence our world) and the Natural Resource Defense Council to develop GIS-based maps displaying the interactions between local watersheds and factories in Northern China. After developing the maps we will join NRDC representatives in approaching factory owners to discuss ways in which they can reduce their influence on water sources and work closely with local villages to develop methods of water preservation.

Jeremy Martin

Middlebury School in Latin America

“Uruguay’s Fight for Choice: Boost the Economy or Bust the Environment?”

This project investigates the dynamism of choice in the third world by exploring how nations prioritize economic development over environmental sustainability. It focuses on Uruguay’s recent victory over Argentina in the International Court of Justice, in which Uruguay gained the right to build two cellulose burning plants in the coastal city of Fray Bentos. For Argentine environmentalists, the new factory symbolizes the ecological destruction of the shared river, Rio de la Plata, and its prized surrounding soil. For Uruguayans, however, the new port infrastructure promises hope because of the 8,000 additional jobs it will create and the chance to rebound from the 2002 economic crisis. Because it is the largest construction project in Uruguayan history, illuminating the sustainable initiatives used in the factory will offer valuable insight as to how developing countries attempt to manage their physical and financial assets while also coping with the consequences of industrialization. Finally, this grant proposal tries to answer whether or not innovative sustainable technologies can mitigate environmental harm without sacrificing economic opportunity.

Andrew Stein

Middlebury School in China

“A Comparative Study of China’s Waste Abundance”

The Middlebury Sustainable Study Abroad grant affords me with the opportunity to extend my conduction of a research project, the focus of which is the environmental damage, particularly the abundance of waste, that China’s recent modernization, rapid industrialization, and massive population are giving rise to. My research begins in Hangzhou and continues on to that of the Yunnan province, located in the South of China, just above the South-East Asian country of Vietnam and to the East of Myanmar. China leaves in its wake of exponential development a vast trail of environmental deterioration; the Yunnan province is no exception to this relationship between man’s modernization and the World’s environment. The Yunnan province is currently a hot topic of environmental debate as well as the setting of China’s most successful environmental victories. I will direct my research towards the cities of Kunming and Dali, as well as the province’s northern region which encompasses “Tiger Leaping Gorge” and the Nu River valley. While in Yunnan I will seek out interviews with the NGO representatives, environmental scientists, and civilians being affected by modernizing change in their surroundings. In addition, I plan to unveil the effectiveness of the clean air policies being implemented in Kunming, the thoughts and concerns of this province’s people, as well as reveal several pressing issues that will soon surface to the public’s attention in the near future.


Study Abroad
Sunderland Language Center, First Floor
356 College Street
Middlebury, VT 05753