Samantha Kurchena

International Experience Country:
Cohort Year:
Home Institution:

Thiel College

Heinz Programming Area:
Study Abroad Country: Cohort Year:  Home Institution:  Programming Area: 
International Experience Summary:

As a recipient of the Vira Heinz for Women in Global Leadership, Sami studied abroad in Perth, Western Australia for five weeks. While in Australia, Sami took two courses about the marine biology and ecology of Western Australia as well as marine field research methods.  In addition to the courses, she also took part in research on a species of giant clams while in Exmouth, Western Australia for a week. Sami’s main areas of focus for this trip were the marine biology and biodiversity of coral reefs as well as how climate change is affecting the coral reefs of Western Australia. While these topics were covered in her classes, she was also able to see the affects first hand at the Ningaloo Coral Reef in Western Australia. In addition to learning about coral reef ecosystems, Sami was able to swim with the largest fish in the ocean, the whale shark, as well as manta rays. During her time in Western Australia, Sami was able to communicate with local people and live like an Australian university student by taking public transportation into the cities of Perth and Fremantle and living in university apartments. While taking classes and exploring Fremantle and Perth, Sami was able to learn a lot about Australian culture and the history of Western Australia by visiting the shipwreck museum in Fremantle and other landmarks around both Perth and Fremantle. Sami also was able to get scuba certified while in Australia, which is something she looks forward to using in her future career. Sami hopes to continue travelling to other locations but hopes to return to Western Australia to visit the amazing people she met while there. By taking two courses, participating in research, and going out on excursions, Sami gained a new respect for Australia and its marine ecosystems and hopes it will help her in her future career.

Community Engagement Experience Summary:

CEE Title: No Impact Too Small

Our Community Engagement Experience allowed for students and staff a casual place to learn new information and then have meaningful conversations about what they had found. The attendees were able to learn about different cultural and environmental issues on both the local and global levels. Our event consisted of our cohort sharing our adventures and learnings as well as clubs and organizations sharing topics that they were concerned about. The decorations on each table attracted people in to the room and it allowed people to find things that interested them. While the crowd of people travelled from table to table, they were able to gather knowledge about what matters to other students and staff on our campus. We had groups discussing everything from skin cancer to ghost fishing, which was my topic. The wide array of topics helped spark meaningful discussion in the room. As a team, we worked to discuss with people the importance of people on our campus trying to make an impact. I told them that even the smallest ripples can make a wave when they come together. By having it be something where students can come and go as they please allowed for more students to come so that if they were busy, they were able to come for some amount of time. I believe that the way Quinn, Tanyra, and I completed our CEE allowed for comfortable atmosphere that fostered important conversations. Overall, I believe we had a very successful CEE that created new ideas and promoted personal growth in many people across our community.