Elena McDermott

International Experience Country:
Cohort Year:
Home Institution:

Waynesburg University

Heinz Programming Area:
Study Abroad Country: Australia Cohort Year: 2019 Home Institution: Waynesburg University Programming Area: Sustainability
International Experience Summary:

Elena McDermott went to Australia where she spent time in Sydney, Perth, and Coral Bay for four weeks. She got the opportunity to tour Sydney and visit Blue Mountains National Park, where she learned about the city’s eco-friendly lifestyle. She studied tropical marine biology and learned about the marine environments of Western Australia and their human impacts. The class entailed lectures at Murdoch University in Perth, WA as well as field work at Ningaloo Reef in Coral Bay, WA. The field work contained two mini projects where a wet suit and snorkel were needed to survey areas of the coral reef. She, and other Aussie students, helped complete two mini projects (stingray and coral health surveys) alongside actual PhD certified scientists and professors. Elena also operated underwater video equipment and tools in order to gather research. She was completely immersed into an environment of positive and passionate people that cared deeply for marine life. She was informed of the heavy conservation of Ningaloo Marine Park and its famous “no-take zones”. She was able to explore the reef and enjoy encounters with tiger sharks, white and black-tip reef sharks, wobbegong sharks, sea turtles, dugongs, dolphins, sea slugs, octopuses, and a wide variety of colorful fish. She also had an unbelievable encounter in the open ocean with humpback whales. The residents of the marine park taught her the beauty of enjoying wildlife in a safe and protective way. She got to experience an ocean paradise almost untouched by humans. While abroad, Elena realized that the U.S. can and should do better when it comes to being more environmentally conscious. She hopes to apply what she learned about conservation techniques in Australia to her own environment in Pennsylvania. Australia opened her eyes to a whole new world that brings hope to her scientific background and passion for nature.

Community Engagement Experience Summary:

CEE Title:  The WE in Wellness

The Waynesburg 2019 Vira I. Heinz Cohort CEE was titled “The WE in Wellness” where we hosted a fair with a variety of tables and stations. The purpose was to provide an opportunity for students to learn about how to revitalize our community. We wanted to share with the campus and the greater Waynesburg community what we learned in our countries in terms of wellness and how we can incorporate those components into our lives. We presented topics from the aspects of the wellness wheel from an array of perspectives. The six of us discussed what wellness looked like in our six different host countries. These include how women's health issues are addressed in India, the indigenous sustainability practices and holistic remedies in Belize, alternative medicine practices in Costa Rica, community wellness in South Africa, and identifying “fatal foods” sold and consumed in the U.S. but banned in Europe, and how environmental health issues are addressed in Australia. Each visitor received a “passport” of each of our countries. When they visited every table, they received a sticker. When the passport was complete, they could enter their name into a raffle for prizes. We also had a variety of clubs and organizations, such as Ecostewards and Peer Leaders, join us at the event. They had their own table at the event where they were able to do their own interactive activity. Having others join us during the event added more to the community aspect of our CEE. We wanted people to be engaged and to experience more than just hear informational lectures. Our unique experiences gave us the tools needed to provide information to the community on how to live a healthier lifestyle.