October 01, 2015

Australia Reinforces Student’s Interest in Environmentalism

Before travelling to Australia this summer through Susquehanna’s Global Opportunities (GO) program, Michelle Barakat ’16 already had a good idea of where she was headed in life.

Barakat, an earth and environmental sciences major from Bethlehem, Pa., who serves as a Sustainability Service Scholar, has long been interested in conservation and sustainable agriculture. Seeing the effects of climate change firsthand in Australia only confirmed her career aspirations. She talked to Susquehanna Currents about her experiences earlier this year.

SC: What was it like to see the impact of climate change up close and personal?
MB: There are many areas that have been affected by climate change, but it seems to be most prevalent in Australia.

SC: How did your time in Australia influence the environmental beliefs you already had?
MB: It definitely enhanced my environmental beliefs. The most prominent way it influenced me was by teaching me about the many forms of environmental racism. For instance, many of the aboriginals were forced to move to the Red Center by the Europeans. The Red Center, while beautiful and full of religious figures and formations, is also a desert. Therefore, these aboriginals were forced into an area with sparse rainfall and bodies of water and very little food.

SC: Was this the life-changing experience you hoped it would be?
MB: This experience was the best I have ever had. It was both educational and fun, like most great things. I was able to have wonderful people around me while doing some of my favorite things. It has made me so incredibly grateful to have this opportunity. I would definitely recommend this trip to anyone who is interested in learning more about Australian culture and who loves the outdoors. I would do it again a million times if I could.