Adventures abroad: Student gains new insights about sustainability

Ishan Muzumdar
March 27, 2017

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — For most students, having the opportunity to study abroad even once is a blessing and a privilege. Then again, Francesca Ramacciotti isn’t like most students.

The senior environmental resource management major traveled to both New Zealand and Costa Rica as part of two separate embedded courses. She was first introduced to these study-abroad opportunities through her major’s coursework.

On each trip, Ramacciotti gained valuable insights into sustainable development, communication skills, and international collaboration.

During her winter break, Ramacciotti journeyed to New Zealand, staying at Lincoln University on the South Island. While there, she learned about local wildlife, attended lectures from local professors, and studied New Zealand culture directly from the Maori people (New Zealand’s indigenous population). She also trekked on Quail Island and helped her tour guide complete a research project on nearby insect life in Hinewai Reserve.

“This course to New Zealand was so rewarding because it was the first time I had traveled to a new country with the specific purpose of learning about their environment,” she said. “When I came back to Penn State, I felt re-energized and even more excited to tackle the environmental problems our world is facing.”

But Ramacciotti wasn’t done yet. The following spring, the Roxbury, New Jersey, native packed her bags again and shipped off to Límon, a small province on the east cost of Costa Rica. Límon is host to several sustainable farms, and Ramacciotti had the unique opportunity to observe their farming practices up close — getting her hands dirty in the process.

“I was really impressed by how hands-on our learning was,” she said. “We built our own planters, made animal feed and collected eggs for research at the butterfly sanctuary. It made us feel like we were a part of something important.”

Ramacciotti’s favorite experience in Costa Rica was meeting the local farmers. On these visits, she learned firsthand about new sustainable farming techniques and even built a biodigestor, a machine that converts animal waste into methane, which can later be used as cooking fuel, for one of the farmers. Many locals in Límon use biodigestors as a sustainable solution to remove animal waste.

Ramacciotti greatly valued the cultural experiences of her two study-abroad programs. “I think that meeting diverse groups of people has helped me learn to work with people from different backgrounds,” she said. “As a result of the experiences I had abroad, I can offer new viewpoints to help solve important environmental problems.”

In addition to her major, Ramacciotti is also double-minoring in sustainability leadership and environmental and renewable resource economics. She believes that by understanding the relationships between sustainability, finance and business management, she will be better equipped to tackle issues in sustainability.

In the fall, Ramacciotti will be enrolling in the masters of environmental science program at the University of Pennsylvania. Later, she plans to go into consulting to help large companies form sustainable business practices in supply-chain manufacturing and product packaging and delivery. Through this work, she hopes to inspire her future employees and clients to make sustainable choices in their personal lives.

“I want to help people make more conscious, environmentally-aware lifestyle choices,” she said. “Through a collective effort to be more sustainable, we all have the power to make a strong, positive impact on the environment.”

For more information on study-abroad opportunities offered in environmental resource management, check out the College of Agricultural Sciences’ website.

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Last Updated March 27, 2017