International Educator - May/June 2012 - 52
Madison college renewable energy for the developing world program participant helps teach a local youth how to wire a light socket in a home that has never had electricity.
“We need to further collaborate with academia to create ‘communiversities; where students can spend years in ecovillages to gain the background and skills needed to enter the workplace in habitat restoration, sustainable agriculture, group facilitation, holistic health, ecological design, green building, and more.,” says Greenberg, adding that college students are “mature enough to ask the big questions yet also open to radical alternatives such as those modeled within ecovillages.” Living Routes won GoAbroad’s 2011 Innovation in Sustainability Award for infusing sustainability in all its programs. Other NGOs also offer overseas adventures to practice and learn about sustainability. Global Brigades, like Engineers Without Borders, organizes itself through chapters at 325 universities worldwide. In-country teams work with local communities to develop projects for brigades of volunteers who come for seven to ten days at a time. University of Virginia students built eco-stoves as part of a public health project in Honduras. A brigade of architectural students designed schools and health centers in Honduras. “This is not an alternative spring break,” says Global Brigades Program Officer Shital Chauhan. “This is a social movement.”
InternatIonal educator M AY + J U N E .1 2
Indeed, the notion of being part of something not only life-changing but perhaps even Earth-saving pervades the sustainability movement in international education. “I originally thought our big problem was that we made war against other members of our species,” said James Skelly, coordinator for peace and justice programming at BCA Study Abroad, “then I realized that we were making war against every other species and the planet itself. It becomes for me an absolutely central issue. It is the issue.” Skelly engages students studying abroad in BCA programs in The Global Conversation to help them discover and understand what globalization means and how it affects the planet. Ninety students studying in about 20 countries have joined online Learning Circles to work on a common problem in its local and global aspects. There are online lectures and onthe-ground collaborative projects. “It’s like a social networking site with issues that change all the time,” says Skelly. “Through this casual learning,” says the Global Conversations Facebook page, “students may seek to know more upon returning to their home campuses and may also become active participants in efforts to change a course of events, such as global climate change.” There is a broad spectrum of opportunities for students and institutions to be deeply intentional about the how and why of international education. Rodney Vargas wanted to have control over something that could benefit everyone so he initiated Green Passport. Daniel Greenberg believes this could be a “most exciting time in human history with the study abroad community positioned to really educate the next generation of leaders about how we create a sustainable planet.” Sustainable education abroad is about much more than carbon footprints and the right lightbulbs, important as they are. It is about developing a global civil society with a rich sense of global citizenship, and as James Skelly concludes, “international education is crucial to its development.” IE
kaREN lEGGETT is a freelance writer in Washington, d.c. her last article for IE was “their baggage Goes, too” about mental health and education abroad, which appeared in the health and insurance supplement accompanying the november/december 2011 issue.
From a 2008 a report of the NAFSA Task Force on Environmental Sustainability in Education Abroad.
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