Friday, May 31, 2013

Day 10 -- Goodbye Wales, Hello Ireland!

Helo Aye,

Brett Condon checking in.  Currently sitting our surprisingly luxurious, enclosed ferry, we students have said our last goodbyes to Wales and have started our next journey to Ireland.  Our time in Wales exceeded all expectations.  All of the students pushed their limits when taking the challenges of the outdoor experiences.  From sliding off of massive cliffs into the water to climbing a mountain in a ferocious storm, many students pushed their limits to the extreme.  While enjoying our time with less adrenaline pumping through our veins, we experienced the culture of Wales in many different ways. Many visited local shops, went to the beach, and enjoyed different Welsh foods in some nostalgic restaurants. While moving further into North Wales, we experienced more of the Welsh traditional culture in the towns that we stayed in through the people and sites. Visiting Conwy Castle took us back in time to the 13th century as we stepped into the perspective of King Edward I.

Last night we ended our time in Wales with a karaoke party at the bed and breakfast.  Our amazing hosts, Simon and Leslie, set up their karaoke equipment in a room specifically for our group to enjoy.  What better way to get some group bonding time than to make fools out of ourselves through our 'amazing' voices?  Jill had the outfit of the night as she busted out her flowery wind-suit from the 70's.  I'm told I had the performance of the night with the Rainbow Connection in my Kermit the Frog voice.  I'm weird. Everyone had a blast during our karaoke session and it was a great way to wrap up our time in Wales.

Well, Ireland is in our site and our ferry ride is coming to an end.  It is time to see what Emerald Isle has to offer.  When we dock, we will begin our private tour of Ireland and learn about their culture and history.  Later on we will be visiting the Jameson Distillery and downtown Dublin.

Until tonight, cheers aye! (read further for the night's activities!)

Goodbye Wales

Hello Dublin!

(Later on....)

Our day in Dublin was a success. We started off by taking a stroll around the city and seeing famous sites such as Trinity College, O’Connell Street, and the Molly Malone statue.  After touring the city, we made our way to the Old Jameson Distillery.  It was interesting learning about all of the culture centered around the history of Jameson.  The distillery itself is surprisingly directly related to the class, with the connection to this class.  They pride themselves in advancing technologies to make their product in the most efficient way possible, caring for the environment, using resources efficiently, and impacting society around the world.  Dera, Molly, and I were lucky enough to be one of eight people selected to do taste testing at the end of the tour, after which we became certified taste testers.

After the tour, we walked downtown Dublin and experienced a bit of history being made.  The Ireland and England football rivalry had been suspended since the 1995 match when some fans caused the match to be stopped.  It was crazy being in the center of such a huge event for the locals.  We were then able to experience the nightlife of Dublin.  We spent some time at the world famous Temple Bar.  It was a blast experiencing the Irish culture first hand in such a popular spot.

After leaving Dublin I feel like a small chunk of my life is complete.  I have always wanted to visit this place and experience the day in the life of the Irish.  The end of our trip is sneaking up on us as we only have three days left in the United Kingdom.  Make sure to catch our last few blogs and check out our final experiences of the trip.

Closing time. Cheers!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Day 9 -- Olivia's Vlog Post

Instead of the typical written out blog posts, Olivia takes a different approach with a vlog! Listen in:

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Day 8 -- Hiking Mt. Snowdon

Today’s adventure was to hike Mount Snowdon, the second highest mountain in the UK and an adventure it was. The weather forecast was not in favor for those who wanted to take on the challenge. The group woke up early today and made our way to the bottom of the mountain, before we even got there it started to rain. Since it did not look like the sun was going to come out, only a group of nine started the journey in 30 degree weather. Eric led Amber, Elizabeth, Ariana, Molly, Olivia, Callie, Brett, and I up a slow slope at first around a lake. We booked through the first part optimistic that the rain and wind would let up. After walking up slopes, the terrain turned into a steep path of rocks. While on the hike up we could see water flowing down the mountain, but that was about all we could see because of the rain and fog. We could not even see the top of the mountain because of all of the fog. 

About an hour into the trip up our spirits were lifted by a couple of experienced hikers who told us at the top it was sunny with pina colada’s were awaiting for us. With this incentive we kept trucking up the mountain even though we were cold and wet, and some put on some very fashionable ponchos to protect them from the rain. After a couple of steep walks up paths of rocks, we then had to climb and make our way up piles of rocks. This was about two-thirds of the way up and when the rain and wind really picked up and it was pretty much miserable hiking conditions. We would hike up parts of the mountain and then not be able to see where we were due to the fog and rain. Even though we were about 40 minutes from the top, we turned around due to the awful weather conditions. At this point we were all soaked completely and bummed we didn’t make it to the top, but we knew we needed to. 

Since we did not make it to the top we had to go down the slippery rocks we just hiked up, instead of an easier path going from the top. After making our way back down we talked to another hiker who was also heading back down, he told us even the mountain guides were turning around to get off the mountain, at this point we knew we made the right decision to turn back. With helping each other we made our way down the very slippery rocks. We could not wait to get back to the lodge to warm up. After a four hour round trip we did make our way back to the lodge. Due to being on the mountain we could not reach our coach driver to pick us early so we shivered in the lodge with dripping wet clothes for about an half an hour. Hot coco and tea helped warm us up, until the coach arrived. Overall everyone was glad we hiked as long as we could, even though the weather was miserable. It will be an experience none of us will ever forget!

We then headed to Llandudno to meet with the rest of the group who was exploring the town for the day, they said the town has cute places to shop and eat. After warming up and taking a quick nap from all the activities during the day, we got ready and headed out on the town. We headed toward the beach and walked out on the dock to get a better view of the rocks and the offshore wind farm. After taking in some beautiful scenery we headed to an old opera house turned into a restaurant for some great food. Once full and happy we headed back to our bed and breakfast for good group bonding. There’s nothing better than relaxing and reminiscing about the day and the adventures we had.    


Day 7 -- Canyoning in Wales

Helo (Hello in Welsh) from Dera on the outskirts of Bala, Wales!

Day 6 was spent traveling on a bus, so we're skipping ahead to day 7!

Right now it’s a sunny, yet brisk evening at our recreational lodge. The weather today has been wonderful! Wales has the best weather and landscape we’ve really seen so far and it’s great since today was filled with a recreational outdoor activity called ‘canyoning’. We left this morning around 8:30 a.m. for our 30 minute drive through the hilly gorgeousness to our destination. With my, according to Eric, ‘flowery’ writing skills I shall tell you about the wonderful experience we had today.

We all were dressed in SUPER tight wetsuits, old tennis shoes, helmets, life jackets (a.k.a. buoyancy aids), and diaper type things for our harnesses. Sweat all started to accumulate on our bodies as we hiked back with our guides to the headwaters of the river. I really didn’t know what to expect out of this day, but my mind was surely blown as I jumped off of our starting point from a six foot rock into ice cold spring water. Talk about freezing! Fortunately it wasn’t that bad since we were pumped with adrenaline and had wonderful clear blue and sunny skies all day. We were literally out in this awesomely amazing looking forest following a river of deeply incised gorges that we scrambled, slid and jumped down. Our gorge walking through the rugged rocks, chilly water, and forest reminded a few of us of Lord of the Rings, but maybe that was just what we thought of to pass the time until we canyoned again. When we canyoned we would either be sliding down rocks, free falling into pools of water, jumping off of cliffs, or zip lining from a waterfall but we always stayed on the river’s path. My favorite part about today was zip lining from a waterfall, sliding down and free falling from another waterfall, and jumping off of a high cliff. Honestly I loved it all and I am so glad I had the experience we did today because it didn’t make me feel like the typical tourist in the UK. I can’t really put into words how awesome of a day I had! If you ever have the opportunity to go, no matter the temperature of the water or day, please do go! We took some Go Pro videos of our day so hopefully we’ll be able to share a few of those at some point. Here’s a few of our student’s experiences today:

• Nicole B. literally could not stay up even if she was standing still, but she was a trouper and survived!
• Marissa almost didn’t want to zip line off of the waterfall, but with a little shove she braved the plunge and loved it!
• Callie was just amazing and wasn’t afraid to do anything or try canyoning before everyone else.
• Ari was awesome and jumped off of the highest cliff since her center of gravity was lower than the rest of ours at the end of our day. She was then followed by Brett, Olivia, and Callie! Way to go you crazy kids!
• Jill remained her cool self and before she hit the water while zip lining she yelled “wedgie”, which made everyone’s day even better.

(I would really like to emphasize everyone’s ‘awesomeness’ with a cuss word, but I won’t so keep in mind that everything was amazing and such a good time for all of us)

We’ve been having some wonderful days here, but unfortunately our trip is half over as of today ☹ Some of my favorites while on this trip have been seeing two of my favorite musicals, meeting Bradley Cooper with Callie and Nicole B., viewing London’s architecture and sites, and so much more!

Tomorrow’s schedule is set for hiking the mountain or seeing Llandundo, Wales but the rain might be an issue. Thank goodness today was gorgeous out so we were all able to enjoy today and will be able to tonight since the sun doesn’t set until after 9. As of right now it is 7:14 here and we’re all in our living room area eating pizza and watching TV or enjoying the outdoors. We’ve all been having a wonderful experience through UNI with Eric, Jill, and everyone else! This trip is definitely life changing and I can’t wait to see what this next week has to offer. 

Hwyl fawr am y tro (goodbye for now in Welsh)! ☺ Hope the Iowa rain is enjoyable as we relish in our Welsh sunshine tonight!


Sunday, May 26, 2013

Day 5 -- Swansea University and Caswell Bay, Part 2

Swansea University and Caswell Bay, Part 2

Once 1:00 rolled around, we embarked upon a nature trail throughout campus. This was by far my favorite part of the day! Our leaders Dan and Penny were obviously passionate about the areas of sustainability and biodiversity 
and they truly got all of us excited about these areas as well.

In addition to getting our exercise on this brisk and windy day, we also learned a ton about the variety of different habitats that house a wide range of diverse species. In fact, there were multiple different species of grass in only about a two foot radius. Dan was especially interesting to listen to and therefore we were a bit late our outdoor lunch; we were served soup that contained herbs grown directly on campus!

Rushing to finish our meals, we then walked over to tour SEACAMS and the Aqua Labs. Here, we learned about how small actions can really make a big difference. In the SEACAMS lab, they talked about how simply being organized and logging the amount of usage and waste that goes through can impact the world for the better; in fact, they received an award for their efforts. Afterwards, in the Aqua Lab, we got to learn more about bio-diverse marine life.

In my opinion, the next part of the day was spectacular as well. We all took a bus to Caswell Bay where the mountains met the rolling tide and our feet gripped the sparkling sand. Needless to say, we were all excited to experience such a beautiful sight.

We climbed some rocks, drew in the sand, and ran through the water until the tide almost washed our shoes away. Paige frolicked in the sand, Eric was giddy with excitement, Ariana and Amber got trapped at the top of a cliff, countless items were rescued from the rising tide, a cave was discovered, and conversations were held as we sat in the sun and dried our feet before we were to leave once again. It was a fun time with friends, new and old.

After tiring ourselves out at Caswell Bay, we were guided toward one of the best restaurants in Southern Wales 
for some fish and chips!

Diweddglo gwych i ddiwrnod gwych arall!! (A great ending to another great day!)


Saturday, May 25, 2013

Day 5 -- Swansea University and Caswell Bay, Part 1

Welcome to Wales! Where the words are made up and the weather doesn’t matter!

Part One of Two

After arriving in Wales last night, we woke up this morning with the sea air in our lungs and the anticipation of a new day clinging to our minds. Today is the day we would finally get a look at sustainability from the perspective of a university that seemed far different from our own. What we learned, however, was that although we may seem worlds apart, there are many similarities between UNI and Swansea University, and there are many things 
that we can take from them to improve our own campus.

On our way to Swansea University, we had the privilege to walk through Singleton Park, where the flora surrounded us and captured my attention wherever I looked. This park, full of plants, animals, insects, and a world of hidden life was the perfect prequel to day of thinking and learning about the subjects of sustainability and biodiversity.

Once we arrived on campus, we met our gracious and helpful hosts for the day: Heidi, Anna, and Ambreen.

Anna started the workshop by asking us and a few Swansea students about what we thought sustainability meant, and then provided us with a couple of definitions that she had found online. One of these defined sustainability as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. From there, we began to discuss the differences between our two universities in terms of issues concerning sustainability. This is what the group of us came up with:

Swansea University
Students prefer to take the easy way out and there is a lack of awareness/interest
Laziness – e.g. students tend to drive even when they are only traveling a short distance
There is not much public recycling
Lack of publicity
Lack of information – e.g. what can be recycled vs. what can’t
Many buildings in Swansea are grade-listed and therefore cannot be insulated. This increases the amount of energy needed to heat the buildings.
Little alternative energy usage

Labs use a lot of electricity and water

However, we were also able to compare and contrast some of the things that the campuses did well with respect 
to living and functioning sustainably.

Swansea University
Textbook sales within the student body
Collecting unwanted items during the time of student move-out to give to those who need it
Students are not allowed to park on campus which is a good incentive to walk, bike, or take the bus
Solar-powered cars
Sustainability week/month
Student audit training
Recycling bins provided in each dorm room

Switches on outlets to reduce unnecessary energy consumption
The Panther Plot student garden

Energy audits for dorms

Steam tunnels underground

After we were locked into the subject and focused on sustainable efforts, we were able to get a better look into Swansea University and the country of Wales. The sustainability team at the university was set up approximately two years and has grown considerably since it started. The basis of their work lies within the Swansea University Sustainability Strategy. This strategy is quite complex, but to simplify it for us, they broke it apart. There are 5 main principles that make it up: Knowledge and Skills, Low Carbon, Green Corridor, Sustainable Decision Making, and Well Being. From there, emerged three key themes: 1) Estates and Operations 2) Learning, Teaching, and Research and 3) Leadership, Empowerment, and Partnerships. It was further broken down into the areas of an Environmental Management System, dedicated to researching the issues and focusing on the most important one, a Carbon Management Plan, where possible projects are discussed, and a Biodiversity Action Plan. Furthermore, Anna made it clear that the number one building block to a sustainable university is staff and student engagement. That is where we were given a chance to brainstorm issues and engagement concerning our two institutions. 

The first group, given the topic of increasing recycling, came up with a unique and exciting way to motivate the campus population to recycle their waste.

The second group worked with the topic of reducing energy consumption and expanded upon the idea of Sustainability competitions across campus.

My group received the issue of transportation and were able to come up with three different options based on the structure of the university and the nature of the situation.

Finally, the last group presented their response to the overconsumption of water.

Stay tuned tomorrow for Part Two of our Swansea University and Caswell Bay adventure!


Friday, May 24, 2013

Day 4 -- Hail, Baths, and Castles

Next stop, Wales! 

Well folks, we are no longer in England - we've made it to Wales! My name is Amber Smit and I'm studying psychology and family services at UNI!  

The first three days in London were so much more than I thought they would be. I'm incredibly fascinated with architecture, so London grabbed my attention everywhere we could have possibly gone. The buildings are unbelievable!  

Today was our first day of travel again since arriving in the United Kingdom. We hopped on a coach tour to head to Windsor Castle, Stonehenge, and the Roman Baths.  

Our first stop was at Windsor Castle. After seeing Buckingham Palace the first day, this was another great place to learn about the Royals. The Queen spends a couple days a week at this castle. We were able to tour rooms, and we also saw St. George's Chapel where King Henry VIII, his wife Catherine and their child are laid to rest. Catherine died in child birth - the lucky one of his wives, considering the deaths of some of his other wives! Charles and Elizabeth are also laid to rest in this chapel.  This is probably one of my top favorite places of the trip so far. I love learning about the Royals and of course, the architecture throughout everything was beautiful.

We had been practicing our accents the whole trip

Our next stop was at Stonehenge. Although we were lucky enough to not have any rain during the trip so far, this is where our luck ran out. Just after getting off this bus, we were showered with not only rain, but hail as well! Let's just say our time at Stonehenge was short. I really enjoyed learning about the different theories on how Stonehenge was formed. 

"And then hell froze over"

Brett running free at Stonehenge

 Our final stop was at the Royal Baths. History says that a man who was in line for the throne was healed of leprosy by bathing in the spring. After seeing the bath, the spring, and many of the original pieces of the Royal Bath, many of us drank the hot spring water from bath. You think that's pretty gross, right? Yeah, we did too, but it wasn't all that bad. You're also probably wondering why in the world we would want to drink this. It's said that the water cleanses the inside of the body, is to help with one's health, and make one look younger. Fingers crossed!

"She touched the butt!" - Finding Nemo

Dera and I

Tonight's a night of relaxing and free time to check out Swansea, big day at the University tomorrow! 

Stay tuned for more glimpses into our incredible trip and experiences! 

--Amber Smit   

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Day 3 -- Abbey and Bradley

Today was a day full of seperate adventures. Our group spilt up to explore several different things from museums to boat tours to musicals, so my account of day three in London varies compared to others.

Beatles fans united to take the journey to see the famous Abbey Road.We made several attempts running out into the street between traffic to reenact the famous album cover. We had some good laughs as we were dodging cars and being honked at by the local Londoners. Nicole B. almost got hit by a bus. A couple of other girls fled as an ambulance sped in their direction. At least we gave those drivers a few good laughs as they drove by. I guess you could say our day started out on the right foot.

Brett walking at Abbey Road

After lots of pictures and walks across Abbey Road, we went to explorethe city before our musicals later that day or night. Five of us girlsdid some more sightseeing around St. Paul's Cathedral where Prince Charles and the late Princess Diana were married. We wondered around and found where Shakespeare's original Globe Theatre was located before it famously burned down. After crossing the Tower Bridge, we also took a short boat tour on the River Thames which ended at Westminster Abbey and provided us with some great photo taking opportunities.

This is when it gets very interesting. Nicole B. and I were then on our lonesome to explore the Piccadilly Circus area before The Phantom of the Opera at Her Magesty´s Theatre. There were more people than we had ever seen before in London. The streets were packed. We then discovered that there was a movie premiere taking place. Low and behold, it was The Hangover III.

After further debate, we decided to see what all the hype was about and that's when we found Dera who was all alone like a one-man wolf pack. We were holding our cameras over our heads trying to get semi-identifiable pictures of the movie stars when Dera decided she was going in between the gates setup for the premiere. Nicole and I decided to follow. To our luck, one of the actors, Bradley Cooper, just happened to make his way towards us. Tongue-tied and awestruck, Nicole B. blurted out, "We came all the way from Iowa!" He didn't understand her and he replied, "What?" She then simply said, "Iowa." He went to take a picture with her and I, and we couldn't believe how lucky we were. We were going to have a picture with BRADLEY COOPER.

Seconds after he took the picture, we checked, and to our dismay the picture did not turn out. We were crushed, and we then remembered Dera was farther up. We found her and told her what happened as Bradley Cooper was getting closer to us again. We yelled to him that we were again the girls from Iowa and that the last picture didn't turn out.At that time, he was giving people his autograph. He walked past us only to turn back and fulfill our request. He successfully took our picture with him and told us "There, now you've got one." We were ecstatic and could not wait to tell the others about what they missed. I guess you could say it was our lucky day.

Dera, Nicole B., Callie, and some random girl trying to hug Bradley in the middle

There was no better way to end our London excursion than with a handful of musicals. Some went to Rock of Ages the previous night. A pair went to The Lion King, more went to Wicked, a few went to Les Miserables and a bunch, myself included, went to The Phantom of the Opera. (Oh and I was told to mention that a little birdie told me Eric shed some tears during Les Miserables.)

All in all, we had a blast with our different cultural experiences today. And like the Hangover III movie tagline states: this is the end.

Goodbye London and hello Wales!

Callie Bottorff

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Day 2 -- A History Lover's Paradise

Today was our second day in London, and the first day that we actually had a full night of sleep. We are staying at the St. Simone and they have an awesome breakfast. A staff member, Alexander, loves to ask me weird history question because he found out I was history major. Today he tried to convince me George Washington started the French and Indian war.

After a good English breakfast, we went on the London eye. The London is a Ferris wheel on steroids. You ride in an enclosed glass pod and goes nearly 450 feet in the air. The view is spectacular we could see almost all the major attractions of London. Following the London Eye, we hopped on the Big Bus tour bus and discovered more of London. We saw the London Bridge and the Tower Bridge. The iconic Tower Bridge is often confused with the London Bridge. The London Bridge is just a plain boring bridge.

We hopped off the bus at the Tower of London. The Tower itself holds the Crown Jewels and is supposedly haunted by Anne Boleyn, one of the Henry VIII’s wives. Anne was beheaded at the Tower Green in 1536. A second wife was beheaded in 1542. After soaking in the history of the Tower, we went to Piccadilly Circus. Piccadilly is considered London’s Time Square and is bustling with people. During our time there, we bought theater tickets.

The highlight of the day was the evensong service at Westminster Abbey. I loved Westminster. I felt that the walls were just oozing history. The service was very traditional and I spent my time imagining how the Abbey looked for the royal wedding of Will and Kate in 2010. It just blows my mind that I sat where the Royal Family sat during the wedding. It made me feel like I was a part of history. We also saw the Coronation Chair which has been used in almost every coronation since 1300. Let’s say today’s attraction fulfilled my historian dreams. I’m looking forward to our free day tomorrow in London and exploring the British Museum.

Stay classy my friends and peace out from London.


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Day 1 -- London


After 8 and half hours of flying we are finally here and London is amazing! To start off I would like to shout out to all of the moms reading out there and say that everyone is safe and sound and has everything that they need....except if you all wanted to maybe add a few more dollars to our accounts, we wouldn’t mind.

Well everyone, today has been a long one! We started our journey in Des Moines with a 90 minute flight to Chicago where we had a four hour layover, and a forty-five minute delay. Up next came the horribly boring, uncomfortable eight hours from Chicago to our first destination on this adventure, and now that we're here in London I can honestly say it is definitely worth it. We got on the plane in the afternoon and magically landed in the early morning, successfully fulfilling my lifelong dream of time traveling. 

As soon as we landed we all learned a real life lesson about standing in line and the joys of public transit thanks to the airport and the London Underground trains. As soon as we found our quaint, adorable, little hotel we all promptly stuffed our faces with the massive and delicious complementary breakfasts put on by our hosts at Hotel St. Simeon. 

Unexpected breakfast, yummy!!
Second ride on the tube.
Our first adventure of the day was the legendary changing of the guards at the Buckingham palace. The place was packed and we didn’t have the best view, but we all enjoyed the ceremony and the famous red uniforms and big bushy black helmets. The next item on our agenda was a walking tour of Harry Potter areas around town including sites in and around Piccadilly Circus. The tour showed places that inspired the books and places where they filmed the movies. The guides were very energetic and had a lot of great information and fun facts about Harry Potter. The tour even featured a sweets shop with Harry Potter candies, and we all got free samples, YUM. After the Harry Potter tour we hopped on a red double decker tour bus and saw and learned about a few of the many historically significant and beautifully architectural buildings around London. 
Near Buckingham Palace
Changing of the Guard

Outside the National Gallery
Jill and Amber trying out for the next Harry Potter movie!!

Practically everywhere you look here there is something to see! We're not in Cedar Falls anymore people! At this point we were all pretty tired and grumpy, so we stopped back at our hotel and settled in a bit. We all ended our nights by going out to dinner at the local pub down the street from where we're staying :)  It was a long, tiring, amazing start to our adventure! Check back tomorrow and for the next two weeks to see what we are getting up to everyday.


Friday, May 17, 2013

Ready, Set, GO!!

Hello all of you blog readers!
           My name is Ariana Aquilani and I am a Sophomore at UNI studying Accounting with an Economics minor.  I am one of the many students traveling to the United Kingdom to explore their sustainable ways of life.  Now you may ask, "Why would someone pick this Sustainability Capstone in the United Kingdom over all of the trips offered through the University of Northern Iowa?"  Visiting four countries in a two week period, seeing attractions most people would only dream of, and experiencing a whole new culture; I think the better question is why would someone not want to go on this trip?!  I had already decided I wanted to go on a two or three week program and I was set on traveling to either Europe or the United Kingdom.  Personally, I had not even heard of this program before I found out a close friend of mine was signed up for this trip.  At the time, I was enrolled in another capstone; but when I realized this trip was planning to visit many more places, I switched and have been hooked ever since!  Check back starting May 20 to read everything we are experiencing over in the UK!
Farmers' Market at the University of Birmingham
            Hopefully by traveling through the many places we plan to visit, each of us will grasp an idea for a project that we can bring back to implement on the University of Northern Iowa campus.  This is what happened as a result of last year’s trip.  A Presidential Scholar that traveled with the group last year brought back the idea to start a vegetable garden on our campus.  I am proud to say that I have been a part of the group of scholars who took charge of this project in order to make it a reality this year.  The Panther Plot is an on-campus student-run vegetable garden behind the Biology Research Complex.  Not only will it provide local, healthy produce to members of the university and the community through a fall farmers’ market, but it will also offer volunteers an opportunity to learn lifelong skills concerning food systems, and foster relationships, connections, and diverse learning experiences for everyone involved.  It joins together people from the Center for Energy and Environmental Education, the Northeast Iowa Food Bank, the FoodCorps Program, the Cornerstone faculty, the Reaching for Higher Ground committee, Dining Services, and many more for a common cause of sustainability.  We hope this will become a maintainable project for many years to come by facilitating a closed circle of fresh produce to decrease our “footprint” on this earth.  Hopefully we will be inspired to impact the university just as last year’s group did!  We have a lot to live up to but I know we are willing to accept the challenge!
Tower Bridge
            In addition, there are other parts of the trip for which I am very excited!  I have always seen the Tower Bridge, Stonehenge, and Conwy Castle in movies or pictures; but now I will finally be experiencing them in person!  We will not have to worry about exercise with all the walking we will be doing in the cities, not to mention canyoning and hiking up and down Mt. Snowdon in Wales.  Also, we will all have the chance to converse with people of four separate cultures.  Even though most of them will speak English (or some form of English), we will be able to experience their difference in lifestyle.  By looking at their way of life, we may even realize new things about our own American culture.    
On the verge of canyoning

Hiking Mt. Snowdon

              Now that we all have our passports, our packing list from Jill, and our built up enthusiasm, we are all ready for takeoff.  Make sure to pack your camera and walking shoes because after we land in Heathrow Airport in London, struggle carrying our luggage up the stairs, and drop it off at St. Simeon Hotel, we are off to explore the UK!  Hope you are all as excited as I am!  LET OUR ADVENTURE BEGIN!!!  Remember to keep checking back to get first-hand stories each day from every member of our group!  You will feel like you are there exploring with us so you won't want to miss a day!

-Ariana Aquilani

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Leaving On a Jet Plane

Hello everyone,

In just under a week a group of sixteen bright young chaps will begin their journey to the United Kingdom!  This is the first blog of many that will be written in the next three weeks.  We are leaving on a jet plane this upcoming Sunday, May 19th, so keep your eyes open for new posts daily (or when we have internet access).  

My name is Jill, and I am going with on the trip as a program assistant.  For the past two years, I have had the honor of helping Eric to set up and organize this trip.  Last year was our first adventure, created from scratch.  It turned out to be a complete success!  Lots of things have happened on our campus with credit due to the trip taken last year, thanks to the amazing minds of our students.  We are ecstatic to take off on our trip this year, as we have added more activities and countries to our line up.    

I don't want to ruin the whole trip, since the students will tell you about it themselves, but I will fill you in with an overview of all the awesome things we are going to be doing.

First we will fly into London, and do a bit of exploring.  There, at first, we will experience culture shock when traveling via the tube and extreme jet lag.  Students will see all of the main sights such as Big Ben, Westminster, the Tower Bridge, etc.  

After London, we will do a day tour of Stonehenge, the Roman Baths, and Windsor Castle.  We will be heading to Swansea, where we will spend time at Swansea University learning about their current sustainability efforts.

From Swansea we will travel to Northern Wales.  On the way we will stay in a quaint little town called Bala, where we will get some Welsh outdoor action canyoning and hiking Mt. Snowdon, the highest peak in the UK.  In Llandudno we will explore an ancient castle and ride the longest cable cars in Europe.  

The next stop is Ireland.  We will take a ferry to Ireland and explore all of Dublin, then up to Belfast in Northern Ireland, all in a few short days.  We will then voyage back across the Irish Sea to Scotland, where our trip will end a couple days later in Glasgow.  


The whole point of this class is so that students can travel the world and be able to see the environment, technology, and society with new eyes.  Traveling abroad allows us to be open minded and see situations from different perspectives.  Our trip is focused particularly on sustainability.  We want students to figure out for themselves what sustainability means to them and why it is important.  The United Kingdom is a great place to go to do this, as they a leader in sustainable development and research.    

Expectations of students coming on the trip include exploration and discovery of new things related to sustainability.  We anticipate students will bring these ideas back to where we live and choose to make it a better place.  We want students to become intrinsically motivated to do this, and the experiences they have in the UK we hope will help this to happen.  

Having this blog is one way students can reach out, by sharing their ideas with you.  We tried out the blog last year, and it was very successful.  Instead of having only a few students compile one, this year Eric decided to implement blogging into the course and have each student write their on blog, on the day of their choice.  This way we are able to see the perspectives of each student, how they feel about the places we visit, and their attitudes on sustainability.  Students will be able to voice their opinions via writing, a video, or any other creative way they please.  

A new blog will be coming your way later this week prior to our departure.  Thank you for reading and please follow along!  We will put updates on Facebook each time a new blog is posted.  Have a great day!

-Jill Thompson