Studying abroad certainly brings opportunities to learn both in and outside of the classroom. As part of my Bachelor of Environment and Sustainability, I had the privilege of studying ‘The Future of Food’ over the winter break at Yale University in the US. Yale’s official motto, ‘Lux et Veritas’ means ‘Light and Truth’ in Latin. The Yale Summer Session boasts a modified version: ‘Same Veritas, More Lux', meaning the same quality of learning with just more sunshine (or fun) - a motto that is certainly reflective of my time in the US!
Beyond academic course aspects, studying at Yale was an experience within itself. In my spare time I was able to explore the wider Yale community and New Haven region. I visited Yale’s urban farm, the environmental science building, the bioethics centre, toured the bell tower, and hiked to East Rock to get a bird’s eye view of the city. Being a Yale student certainly had its perks, including free entry to the MET, a tour of the United Nations Headquarters in New York, cheap movie ticket deals, and subsidised trips to Broadway shows – hello Wicked and School of Rock! Celebrating the 4th of July in the US was particularly special, giving my classmates and I a good way to reflect on, and share our own cultural traditions and celebrations.
In addition, I had the opportunity to visit Walt Disney World in Florida and explore Washington DC. It turns out that Disney isn’t just for kids. The highlight for me was a ‘behind the seeds’ tour at Disney’s greenhouse which was full of futuristic agriculture. I saw a whole range of unusual plants and agricultural techniques: giant lemons, rotating conveyor belt garden beds, vertical gardens, aquaculture, aquaponics, roof-hanging foods like pumpkins, and methods of biological pest control.
My favourite part of Washington was seeing the National Botanic Gardens, which was a three-storey greenhouse full of a range of climate-controlled rooms to suit different plant conditions. This was not only super cool, but it complemented my study experience, providing me with a visual understanding of how different environmental sectors in the US work.
The butterfly room at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum was also amazing with innumerable butterflies fluttering, and caterpillars preparing to cocoon. Similarly, one night my classmates and I went to a sustainable sushi restaurant and learned about the use of invasive species in food chains as a mechanism to promote conservation at the local level.
All of these experiences sparked discussion amongst my classmates, as we sought to apply our frameworks of academic thinking to our everyday lives.