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