I have always had a strong attachment to nature and the strength of Earth’s processes, an attachment that in part led me to choose my degree area of Geology and Geography. This summer I wanted to use my time wisely, so earlier in the year I decided to submit an application to The GREEN Program, a company based in Philadelphia whose passion is providing climate-conscious students with a more interactive learning experience. At first, everyone I knew thought I was crazy to want to pay out of my own pocket just to go to lectures during the summer holidays. But, the application came back successful and I was informed that I would be spending 10 days in August, with 40 other students from around the world, adventuring around Iceland and learning all about renewable energy and sustainability. So I fundraised and worked overtime, and saved up enough to accept my place. And it was possibly the best decision I’ve ever made.
Every day was as fun-packed and informative as the last, and every day had more innovative ideas popping into my head as I got to know some of the loveliest people I’ve gotten to meet so far. Apart from breakfast, lunch and dinner, there was no set layout to the days other than an incredibly fun activity and lots of amazing sightseeing. We visited some of the oldest and largest geothermal and hydroelectric plants in Iceland, which also have some of the most efficient energy outputs in the world. Feeling the raw power pouring out of geysers in the ground and roaring over the edge of waterfalls was truly magical. 100% of Iceland’s energy is from renewable sources, so even your shower in the evening was a constant reminder of how self-sustaining modern life is there. We hiked in the outwash valley between three enormous glaciers, we rode in 6-wheeled “super jeeps” across volcanic sand beaches, we snorkeled in glacial meltwater (which is 4°C year round!) and we ate food cooked with geothermally heated rocks.
Although we were learning new things interactively with our guides every day, there were some interesting lectures given at Reykjavik University, along with a group project to be completed throughout the week and presented as a business model in front of our peers and lecturers on the last day. The project was to come up with an inventive new system of utilizing renewable energy, and all of the projects were an incredible testament to the young minds of our generation and the power of enthusiasm and teamwork.
The GREEN Program not only gave me many new ideas for my career path and a greater sense of climate consciousness, but it gave me a set of warm, intelligent, like-minded people who all very quickly became great friends of mine. It was upsetting to leave them all and return back to normal life at the end of my stay, but just knowing that they felt the same way about me was enough.