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Taking Part in Environmental Stewardship

ALBANY, N.Y. (February 21, 2017) — What did 10 UAlbany students learn from building gardens in Nicaragua over winter break? That there is so much work more to do.

“There are so many different ways you can help, but you can’t do everything,” freshman Molly Maycock said.

“What we did could help a lot but there are still other things that need work like infrastructure and the roads,” senior Radha Urribarri said.

Over winter break, Maycock, Urribarri, Jenna Zier, Ana Quinones, Elizabeth Stephenson and five others went on an Eco-Action tour in Nicaragua run by the California nonprofit, Global Student Embassy (GSE). “What our trip was focused on was connecting preventative healthcare, to food access, working on community gardens, and just basically helping local schools,” Urribarri explained. “It was a way to promote nutritious foods and we were able to learn about bio intensive methods.”

GSE focuses on environmental leadership and cultural exchange. Its mission is to develop community leaders through action-oriented environmental education.

The organization works with high school and college students and runs university programs that are led by young organizers. University trips bring about 10-20 students to Nicaragua or Ecuador. The program allows students to work in environmental stewardship, learn about environmental education and provide meaningful volunteer work over school breaks.

At $2,500 for 11 days abroad, the students learned a new culture and were able to give back to a foreign community. Once the students registered and paid their deposits, they could start fundraising for their own trips. Students personalized their own profiles and fundraising pages to collect donations from families, friends and more.

“I went this year because I have done it before in Ecuador and as an environmental science student I like doing hands-on things,” Urribarri said. “I wanted to experience gardening and building beds while experiencing a different culture too.”

It’s also a great alternative for students who aren’t able to study abroad. “As a senior I wasn’t able to go to any of the study abroad programs because my program is very condensed and I didn’t have any room,” Urribarri explained.

Students like Ana Quinones used the program as a way to travel and help others in different communities.

“I’m a senior and I never really got the chance to study abroad, so going to another country and experiencing the culture and the food was an amazing experience,” she explained. “Also knowing that I would be helping people and making a change is what made me even more interested in going there.”

Jenna Zier, a freshman, enjoys agricultural sustainability and wants to join the Peace Corps. “This was the perfect stepping stone for my future plans to join the Peace Corps and I’ve never been to anywhere in the south so it was really nice,” she said.

Maycock was interested from the start. “I saw a flier somewhere about Nicaragua and thought it sounded cool, so I decided to go,” Maycock said.

As a junior and a recent transfer student, Elizabeth Stephenson didn’t think she would have a lot of opportunities to go abroad. “I heard about this program and just took it and went with it,” she said. “Also Radha is my Residential Advisor and she was promoting it and I trusted her and ended up having a lot of fun.”

The students didn’t take part in the program for credit, they did it for the experience. And while there they gardened, breaking up new soil and making beds. The students got to experience a non-tourist type of environment without access to their phones for the entire trip.

“So many people don’t get this opportunity, and it changes the way you think about a lot of things,” Zier said.

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About the University at Albany
A comprehensive public research university, the University at Albany offers more than 120 undergraduate majors and minors and 125 master's, doctoral, and graduate certificate programs. UAlbany is a leader among all New York State colleges and universities in such diverse fields as atmospheric and environmental sciences, business, criminal justice, emergency preparedness, engineering and applied sciences, informatics, public administration, social welfare, and sociology taught by an extensive roster of faculty experts. It also offers expanded academic and research opportunities for students through an affiliation with Albany Law School. With a curriculum enhanced by 600 study-abroad opportunities, UAlbany launches great careers.