Since graduating Burlingame High School as a recipient of the CEC Scholarship for my environmental studies major at NYU (thank you again!), I’ve been on an incredible journey learning about the importance of the environment in the context of international development.
In my freshman year at NYU, I started a research project which received funding from the Dean’s Undergraduate Research Fund as well as the Green Grant. I recruited some students who were interested in studying the climate adaptations being adopted by rice farmers in the Philippines. We worked together as a team which consisted of environmentalists, computer scientists, sociologists, and engineers. We were then invited to run three workshops at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering in Brooklyn to share how we were linking academia with this specific problem in international development. Afterwards, we competed for and won the Davis Projects for Peace Grant, which enabled us to create the first agriculture entrepreneurship program in the Philippines, made for students by students. Recruiting additional team members from business schools in the Philippines, we were able to work together to cultivate student-led startups that increased the profitability of agriculture in the north.
When my sophomore year started in September 2018, I was lucky to be the first undergraduate student to ever win the Making a Difference Award from NYU. Our work in the Philippines continues today thanks to our team members in the Philippines, so I took this most recent summer break to explore something new.
In January 2019, I met with the Center for Global Sea Level Change while I was on an NYU scholars trip to the United Arab Emirates. I pitched a project about using Python and Global Information Systems to make global sea level rise more relevant to island nations in the South Pacific. We wrote the proposal for the Visiting Undergraduate Research Program at NYU Abu Dhabi, which funds all the travel, living, and work expenses for a seven-week research term. By June 8, after my semester abroad had ended, I was on a flight to Dubai to begin the project. Throughout the last six weeks, I’ve developed maps of the changing coastlines of Fiji’s ~300 outer islands.
However, my term here has not just been me stuck in the lab. I served as an American delegate to the UN Climate Meeting in Abu Dhabi, which was in preparation for the UN Climate Summit this fall in New York. By utter chance, the manager of Global Climate Action for the UN sat next to me at the youth dialogue, but we only chatted for a bit before he had to leave five minutes in to attend another meeting. Lucky for me, he gave me his business card. I took notes during the session, typed them out on my computer later, then sent it to him in hopes of sparking a connection. The next day, he offered me an internship.
My major has remained environmental studies over these last two years because it gives me the flexibility to go abroad. Just this past spring semester, I spent four months in Sydney, Australia, and worked at the Sydney Fish Market two days a week. I learned so much about the technological advancements in the seafood industry, and I even ate shrimp with Mario Batali and his family during their visit to the market. This fall semester will mark the start of my junior year, and I will be spending it abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina to study Spanish. My spring semester will also be abroad, this time in Tokyo, Japan, just in time for the 2020 Olympics.
I am excited to continue enjoying my college life and maintaining the friendships I’ve made all around the world. I have deep aspirations to work for the UN and then later on the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to support youth in agriculture. I am wildly grateful for Mike, Eileen, and everyone at the CEC for their investment in my education as well as their endless encouragement.