A New Way of Thinking

Grüß Gott aus Österreich!

Greetings from Austria!

As I’m nearing the end of my exchange, I’ve been able to begin reflecting on my entire experience. It’s pretty overwhelming to think back on all that I’ve learned and done in the past five months and think that it’s all coming to an end in the next few weeks. I‘ve been so greatful for this experience and GLI and UM exchange program for helping me be able to do this. 

For GLI, my global theme is Natural Resource and Sustainability. Here, at UNI GRAZ I’ve taken courses that are more about the humanities and the social constructs behind this concept than my typical science courses. I’ve been studying how our language and different political and media platforms effects how we talk about environmental issues, how cinema and the movie industry effect the environment and how it changes our prospective on the earth and nature, and I’ve also looked at extinction and how this is an ever growing issue that is in need of immediate attention.  These courses, along with various cultural courses have helped me to think in a completely different way. I normally look at the environment with a scientific lens, but in Austria I was able to put down the field tools and really look at the social aspects we’ve had behind our current environmental crisis. Doing this has helped me to understand the importance of looking at an issue from all angles and attacking it in multiple different ways, rather than just one.

While being here, I’ve been able to really look introspectively about how I live my everyday life. I know it’s a cliché to say that I’ve discovered who I am while I’ve been abroad but I can honestly say that I’ve felt that happening. Being away from the states and the drama that surrounds our politics and all the influence from all the media sources has allowed me to deepen my own perspectives and solidify what I believe. my simple everyday interactions that I’ve been having with people from a different culture have allowed me to do just that. I’ve been able to break the mundane habits that I didn’t even realize I was so rooted in, by adapting and exploring a new way of living and thinking. 

Specifically relating to my GLI theme and challenge, I think this experience has made me realize that sustainability isn’t only a problem that America is struggling to address, but it’s also and issue across the world. There is a universal discourse happening about climate change and waste management and resource allocation that I never knew was actually going on.  It’s been rewarding to discuss natural resource and climate issues with people from all over the world and realize that we all sharing the same frustrations and all strive for a global shift towards sustainability. 

Being in Austria I’ve been able to grow into my own as a leader. Usually being one of the only Americans in a class I’ve turned into almost a spokesperson for the American viewpoint (even though I am not qualified for that position). I’ve been able to lead discussions about the climate and other contentious topics in the US while practicing the necessary leadership skills to facilitate a productive conversation. I’ve been really impressed with how open-minded people can be when you have coherent conversations that allow for everyone to gain a greater understanding of a shared interest. 

Sense coming to Europe back in February, I’ve been able to travel and form unimaginable bonds with people all across the world. I’ve visited Austria, Slovenia, Italy, Georgia, Czech Republic, Macedonia, Spain, Slovakia, Hungry and Germany. The best part of every trip though, was the people. talking with people outside of my exchange group and outside of Austria from countries I’ve barely given thought about has shown me how fascinating the world can be. despite culture and upbringing and language, a human is a human and each one is so special. Everywhere I’ve been has been unique and eye opening. Because of this exchange I have made connections with not only incredible people, but incredible places and for that I am forever grateful. 

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