Syracuse Center of Excellence in Environmental and Energy Systems has awarded grants to four New York State companies through its Innovation Fund. Since 2014, the SyracuseCoE Innovation Fund has helped companies overcome barriers to the commercialization of potentially transformative products…
Study Abroad and the Academic Experience
Sophie Creager-Roberts ’24 is a senior double major in environment, sustainability and policy and history in the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs with a minor in atrocity studies and the practices of social justice in the School of Education. During the Fall 2021 semester, she studied abroad in Poland through Syracuse University’s Exploring Central Europe program. Last summer, she interned in Belgium.
Creager-Roberts will discuss her time abroad at the Academic Strategic Plan Launch Symposium Sept. 26. Syracuse University News sat down with her to get her thoughts on the ways an expanded worldview elevates the undergraduate experience.
01How did your study abroad experience enhance your education?
Studying abroad, both in Poland and Belgium, has changed and deepened the way I understand myself. These moments spent away from my home country have not only allowed me to step outside myself and view the world from a new perspective, but have also given me the space to pursue academic interests I previously didn’t know existed and explore new avenues for a future career.
I’ve been able to bring these experiences back to Syracuse and apply the knowledge I gained to shape future and ongoing projects, including my senior thesis topic. Professional and academic doors have opened simply because I had these opportunities to live and study in a different country.
02Did the experience complement your major and minor areas of study?
These experiences definitely paired well with my majors in history and environment, sustainability and policy, as well as my minor in atrocity studies.
This past summer, I had the opportunity to work as an environmental and resource justice intern at the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) in Brussels. I helped with advocacy and coalition-building efforts toward the European Union’s Critical Raw Materials Act.
I was able to engage in nuanced conversations about what a just transition to climate change could really look like. My experience in Belgium exposed me to new approaches to sustainability and blended my passion for the environment, human rights and community resilience.
03What were your expectations ahead of time? Did anything about the experience surprise you?
When I studied abroad in Poland in fall of my sophomore year, I was unsure of what to expect and essentially flew over with few preconceived notions or assumptions. When I went to Brussels last summer, I was more experienced and, in turn, more confident in my ability to navigate, advocate for myself and stay as present in the moment as possible.
I think the biggest surprise was how much I undervalued the privilege of the English language. Both in Brussels and Poland, I was able to navigate an international culture with my native language. Though convenient, it made me even more eager to learn additional languages.
04What was your biggest takeaway from the experience?
The meaningful connections I formed with individuals from around the world. I was so fortunate to work with them, learn from their personal experiences and advice and even participate in EEB’s annual staff retreat in the beautiful Belgian Ardennes. Both opportunities gave me a brief but important taste of professional and academic life outside the U.S.
05The academic strategic plan outlines a commitment to ensuring that the majority of Syracuse undergraduates can study abroad or study away before they graduate. Would you talk a bit about why, from a student perspective, this is an important goal?
The academic strategic plan will be an instrumental part of making all these advantages [of study abroad] possible and accessible to students beyond those on traditional tracks. I think it’s incredibly important that every student has an opportunity to leave campus and explore a new part of the world, not only to broaden their worldview but also to learn about themselves at such a critical moment in their life!
“Leading With Distinction,” Syracuse University’s new academic strategic plan, was unveiled earlier this month following a yearlong planning and development process involving hundreds of people from across the University community. Implementation of the five-year plan begins this fall. To learn more, visit academicaffairs.syracuse.edu/asp.