Moira spent seven weeks studying renewable energy technology and policy in Iceland. In her first week, she and her classmates traveled the southwest part of the country visiting geothermal power plants and the side businesses they helped create, including the famous Blue Lagoon spa. She then spent two and a half weeks in the town of Ísafjörður, where she lived with a host family, took classes in Icelandic, and volunteered at the town’s community supported agriculture garden. After some long evenings working in the dirt, Moira developed quite a rapport with the Hildur, the woman who started the garden. A landscape architect by trade, Hildur used her training to create a garden where crops grow in permanent beds mixed in with native plants to prevent soil erosion and replenish nutrients for future generations. From their conversations Moira got unique insights into Icelandic attitudes towards sustainability, gender roles, and family. After leaving Ísafjörður and saying goodbye to her host family, Moira traveled to Reykjavik, Iceland’s capital and largest city. She attended classes taught by faculty of the University of Iceland, and in her spare time made friends with students living in Reykjavik. Her new friends showed her around Reykjavik’s thriving public art scene, and they spent many an evening comparing life in their respective countries over a few beers. Between her days spent learning about the ins and outs of environmental policy and her nights talking politics with locals and tourists from around the world, Moira gained a deeper understanding of the international nature of climate change and her role both as an American and as an engineer in combating it.
CEE Title: Breaking Invisible Barriers
Breaking Invisible Barriers aimed to raise awareness of some of the less obvious challenges that marginalized people face both in Oakland and around the world. Each of the five Vira Heinz awardees from Pitt Oakland gave a presentation about a problem they saw in the countries they visited and compared it to a related issue at Pitt. The awardees also lead four activities with the audience to help them understand and engage with the problem on a more personal level. Courtney talked about beauty standards in South Korea and how the emphasis placed on a woman’s looks hurts her career prospects and contributes to income inequality. To show off how unrealistic South Korean beauty standards are, she invited audience members to use a Korean photo editing app meant to make the user look more attractive by significantly altering their facial features. Eden talked about how gender roles and the division of household chores pushed many Tanzanian girls away from school and how those same forces push girls in the US from studying STEM subjects. She then led a game of Jeopardy with questions about gender inequality. Moira gave a presentation about the lack of accessible architecture in public spaces and how it contributes to high rates of unemployment and poverty among people with disabilities. For her activity, she handed out maps of the Pitt Oakland campus and instructed audience members to circle all the stairs they climb in a typical day. Finally, Ravan and Katelyn did their presentations on attitudes towards immigrants in Costa Rica and Germany and compared them to the experiences of international students at Pitt. The two did a joint activity where they gave audience members cards with one of two sets of rules for the game rock-paper-scissors and had them compete in a tournament. Half of the audience could use two extra hand gestures which often left the people playing by the standard rules feeling lost and confused.