Going Green: Chemical Engineering Junior Jamila Bland on her Study Abroad

May 15, 2017

For many students, any break from school is an opportunity to relax, decompress, and catch up with anything that you might have missed. This last Spring Break, Jamila Bland, a junior in the Chemical Engineering department, took her leave as an opportunity to give back to the community, as part of the Green Program, which gives students unique learning opportunities around the world.

Both of Bland’s parents are engineers, which piqued her interest early on in her education. Through her diligence attending Manuel High School, Bland was awarded a scholarship that covered her tuition at the Speed School, which came with a high expectation. Inspired by her time volunteering with Louisville Grows, an urban agricultural project, Bland was reticent to commit to any study abroad in fear of falling behind in her course work, until a speech by a peer that had participated in the Green Program prior.

“During the seminar class that we have to take before we went on co-op, a previous student that had been in the Green Program before came and talked to the class. They talked about their experience and let us know further information if we wanted to be a part of it. I chose Peru, because water, my interest, was in there. I thought it’d be cool to have that study abroad experience,” says Bland.

Once there, Bland stayed in Cusco, a city in southeastern Peru near the Andes Mountains. While there, Bland learned about Peruvian bio-diversity and culture in an effort to acclimate to the variety of problems that face the area. The city is plagued with myriad of infrastructural issues including access to clean water, waste management, and an overpopulation of animals, specifically dogs.

Bland explains that in addition, “One of the biggest industries in Cusco is illegal mining and it has a lot of negative impact on the environment. Pollution is an issue with dumping and local trash facilities not picking up trash like they’re supposed to.”

The program works to build on 17 UN sustainable development goals, with the aim to complete or make significant progress in those goals by 2030. Bland explains, “They focus on issues like world hunger, poverty, social justice issues, clean water, just making each and every nation self-sufficient. So, while we were there we were supposed to focus on Capstone projects, and my partner and I made an after-school program, and we tried to focus on food literacy, poverty, and education.”

She adds, “The goal I think of the program is to spark interest. These goals you can put in your own small community initiative. The capstone project I was working on was teaching kids about food literacy and making them more interested in the food industry. You can initiate your own practice.”

For Bland is was an incredible, if difficult experience, and one that she learned a lot from. Encouraged now to continue with her efforts to help the community, Bland was equally touched by the humanity in the residents that she worked with. She says, “We had a service day and the students prepared potatoes for us to eat. And we were like we’re here to help you all.”