Penn State’s University Office of Global Programs (UOGP) awarded Landscape Architecture student Kellie Waksmunski with the First Place Study Abroad Essay as part of International Education Week, a joint initiative of the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Education celebrating the benefits of international education and exchange worldwide.
Waksmunski, recognized for “outstanding writing skills” and a “global mindset,” penned an essay about her experience studying abroad in Udzungwa Mountains National Park. Located in south-central Tanzania, the park contains some of the richest biological diversity in Africa, while bordering settlements populated by villagers who struggle for food, fuel, and clean water. Waksmunski’s essay captured her insights into the complicated relationship between the villagers and their natural surroundings.
“Now that I have been home for four months, my core understanding of Tanzania is rooted in people and their relationship with nature,” Waksmunski writes.
“Whether it is an animosity between the two, one triumphing over the other, or finding that delicate balance where both work together in harmony, nearly everything I have seen, every experience I have had, and everything I have witnessed is clearly connected to this relationship. It is apparent in food production, development, and land use. It affects health, livelihood, and quality of life. People truly depend on nature. However, few successful examples exist when one triumphs over another; there is always a negative effect or an unfortunate outcome for one side. The only way for humans to sustainably grow and continue development and progression into the future is to find a balance with nature. This balance will have to be a give and take for both sides, but it is possible. And finding this balance is the primary challenge facing humanity.” (For her full essay, click here.)
The Udzungwa Mountains National Park Study Abroad Program, administered by the Hamer Center for Community Design and the Department of Landscape Architecture, offers students from all backgrounds an opportunity to gain hands-on experience in environmental design and land-use planning through the applied community design workshop and field trips that allow them to observe and document land use and biodiversity.
H. Campbell and Eleanor R. Stuckeman School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture is a leader in professional design education composed of an interdisciplinary confederation of strong design disciplines: Architecture, Design, and Landscape Architecture.