Puerto Rico: Pre-Departure

Fourteen students and two faculty trip leaders began their travels to Puerto Rico this morning. For the next seven days, students will learn about the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Prior to their departure the group remained on campus for a weekend of pre-travel activities. Koai Solano Ortiz ’24 and Isabelle Schwartz ’24  share a reflection from this weekend.

Koai Solano Ortiz ’24:

Before heading out on our trips, we had two days of preparation on Saturday and Sunday. Saturday began our 2 days before leaving to either Puerto Rico, the American South, or Florida for marine biology! Once provided with snacks at the library, we began to have important discussions and meetings about risks we may face in the trip. We primarily focused on the amount of space we take up in other places and what impact we are making while going on these trips (negative and positive). The goal of Saturday was to raise awareness about our roles in the trips and to be respectful of our environment and culture around us. One of the things I remember specifically was calculating the amount of pollution and CO2 emissions occurring throughout our trips. Through this, we gained a deeper appreciation for being able to go on our trips and to take what we learn seriously. While we cannot undo these actions by ourselves, we have to make our future much better and fruitful through these life experiences. Furthermore, we grew confidence by being vulnerable about our fears and hopes about our trips, whether it be scared of not knowing enough Spanish or being excited to learn more about Bomba, a crucial form of self expression done through art in Puerto Rico. Later on in the day, my program which addresses sustainable goals in Puerto Rico, watched a video about the limited voice Puerto Ricans have and the land/resources that have been taken from them or no longer belong to them due to U.S. laws and relying on exporting goods for their economy.

On Sunday, we attended a presentation in the Garonzik Auditorium where we discussed leadership skills within our programs and how we will utilize our developing skills and mindset to create a valuable experience. After the presentation and snack overload, we were assigned to do specific presentations about individual Sustainable Development Goals. We researched topics that would be addressed on the trip or if you were on the American South trip, had a Zoom meeting with an activist advocating for the removal of police in schools. Once we were done writing up those presentations for later and zoom meetings, everyone headed to lunch in the Starfield to wrap up the first part of the day.

Isabelle Schwartz ’24:

After a difficult week of finals, we had a pizza dinner in the Koch starfield. We talked with our trip groups and had an early night. On Saturday, we left our bags at the MSB and got ready for a full
day of activity! We started off with fun games to practice communication and then read an article about travel and its impact on the environment. Pertaining to our individual trips, a calculation of our carbon emissions for the trips were calculated in groups for the transportation, and we saw the real life application of the article. In the afternoon we had a risk management workshop and a grant writing workshop which I found particularly interesting. We then went to the hotel for the first time, got our roommates and ordered dinner through doordash. I got Thai Blue Ginger as did a few others in the group!

Today we woke up and had breakfast at the Hampton Inn and Suites Greenfield, then headed back to campus. We had a leadership presentation where we discussed good qualities of a
leader and how to apply that to our trips. Elsa and I worked on our project about the Afro-Puerto Rican Bomba music dancing to present later today. We had lunch from Myers Catering in the
starfield and then did some blog posting which I’m doing now. I’m excited for our guest speaker, Dustin Liu, who is coming to talk to us about the sustainable development goals from the UN,
and the rest of the trip!