Two Penn State EMS undergrads serve as GREEN ambassadors

January 21, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — On a hike up a glacier in Iceland, Penn State junior Gabriel Schaefer saw the bare, rocky ground once covered by ice.

“We did a glacier hike to see the real impact of climate change,” said Schaefer, who traveled to Iceland in May as part of the GREEN Program and who served as an ambassador for the program in fall 2019. “We saw how this glacier receded over 10 years. To see that real-world climate change impact was humbling.”

The GREEN Program is a study abroad opportunity for undergraduates that aims to provide experimental learning in sustainability-focused issues at locations around the world.

The trip was eye-opening for Schaefer, who is studying energy engineering in the College of Earth and Mineral Science. He was inspired to share his experiences with other students as part of the Global GREEN Ambassador Program.

Schaefer and Sydni Fritts, a Penn State sophomore studying materials science and engineering, were two of 19 students selected nationally in a competitive process to serve as fall 2019 ambassadors.

“I can easily say it was such an amazing experience, but the hard part is trying to convince someone else,” Fritts said. “Hopefully people can see the opportunity is exciting and give it a chance themselves.”

Schaefer and Fritts previously traveled to Iceland through the GREEN Program. There they toured the country’s renewable energy and biofuel industries, viewed the effects of climate change firsthand and immersed themselves in Icelandic culture.

For Schaefer, the trip to Iceland was an opportunity to see how renewable energy impacts an economy.

“The main reason I chose energy engineering is because I wanted to go on a path toward renewable energy,” he said. “It’s something that’s been a passion for me since high school. Energy engineering is one of the few majors that offered me a direct pathway to addressing those kinds of questions.”

After traveling through Iceland and visiting various sites, Schaefer’s career plans came into focus.

“I think the GREEN Program reignited the spark of why I wanted to do this,” he said. “It reminded me why I wanted to pursue my major, seeing the real-world impacts of climate change and the applications in action. I think it really helped me focus on what I want to do with my career.”

For more information about the GREEN Program, including how to apply, visit


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Last Updated January 21, 2020