Name: Molly Potoczak

IMG_9917Type of Project: EnvironmIMG_9720ental Sustainability in Costa Rica Study Abroad

  1. For my STEP Signature Project, I took a 2-week long Earth Science class at Ohio State, then I traveled to various cities in Costa Rica for 10 days to learn about the vast topic of sustainability and how Costa Rica focuses very heavily on it. On my trip, we visited wind farms, learned about sustainable food/beverage production methods, and hiked through tropical rainforests. I learned quite a bit about the physical makeup of Costa Rica through my in-class portion of this project.
  2. My view of the world dramatically changed while I was on this trip. As I mentioned before, sustainability was our main focus and that is not in my realm of study, so I never thought much about it. However, going on this trip really opened my eyes to how important being sustainable actually is. I am an economics minor, so I was always very supportive of trying to build up businesses and expanding the economy, but I never realized how much of a toll that took on the environment. Going on this trip and seeing how much of a connection that Costa Ricans have with their land really helped me to realize how important nature actually is. Since returning to the U.S., I have become a huge proponent of preserving the environment in any way possible, even if this means scaling back on economic progress a little bit.
  3. One activity that led to my worldview change was going to the wind farm. When we were there, I got to see a wind turbine up close for the first time, and there was something about that that really got me thinking about the environment that we have been blessed with. It truly is something incredible and we are ruining it little by little every single day without even thinking twice. If we keep living the way we do, our grandchildren might not have the same luxury of walking outside and breathing in fresh air. At the wind farm, we discussed how growing the economy is deteriorating our environment. I always thought economic improvement was the most important thing, but it really is not when it is ruining our very Earth. Being able to see a sustainable energy source up close helped me to better understand how necessary they really are.

A key relationship that helped me with my transformation was that with my professor that accompanied us on the trip. I had never met him until our on-campus lectures, but I could instantly tell that I was going to like him. He made the material interesting for me (I typically am not too interested in earth science) and he always related it back to Costa Rica and sustainability, which made me excited for the trip. While in-country, you could see how passionate he was about preserving the planet and doing things in a sustainable way, which really made me want to be like that. He seemed so fulfilled from living a sustainable lifestyle and showed how easy it is to do.

Finally, my interactions with locals was the most important factor in my transformation. Being able to witness firsthand their profound respect for the environment was moving. A common thing in Costa Rica is to build a very small house on your plot of land, so you have more land to protect and take care of. That fact really hit me hard because it is the exact opposite of America. Here, people build houses that are way bigger than they need, just to show off their wealth. Experiencing Costa Rica showed me that true wealth can be found simply in nature. Experiencing how an entire culture was built off of respect for land and the environment is enough to make anyone realize its true importance.

4. This change of mindset is significant for my life because it changes how I complete everyday tasks. Now, I take the bus to work everyday instead of further polluting the air by taking my own car. I make it a point to recycle, take shorter showers, and not leave unnecessary things plugged into my wall. Even if they are little things, they add up to make a big difference in both my life and the environment. Also, in the profession of accounting, (my future career and current internship) quite a lot of paper is used. Recently, I was asked by my senior to print out something that was 432 pages long. I thought that was absurd, so I asked him if there was any way to cut that down. I ended up skimming the statement and picking out the most important information and cutting it down to only 80 pages. That is still a lot, but I knew that I was making an impact by saving those other 352 pages. I plan to keep up this technique in my future and hopefully be able to make it a complete computerized system by the time I am well into my career. Therefore, that shows just how much of an impact this study abroad trip had on me and how it will make significant positive impacts in my future.

Here is a link to my blog about the experience 🙂