A Penn State Undergrad Experiences Icelandic Culture by Studying Abroad through TGP Scholarship


Dec 27, 2022

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Meet Elizabeth Tofte

Iceland 2022
TGP Scholarship Recipient

Penn State University
Major: Earth Sciences
Graduation Year: 2024

“My expectations were far exceeded as my trip to Iceland, studying and exploring, was definitely a highlight of my life.”

I am a junior at Penn State University where I major in Earth Sciences. When I first heard about The GREEN Program, I was instantly drawn to the company’s mission of giving students the opportunity to learn about sustainable development through education abroad. As an Earth Sciences major and a passionate advocate for sustainability, I knew that this program was exactly what I was looking for. When I initially applied for the TGP Scholarship, I didn’t have any expectations. I simply thought that it wouldn’t hurt to just give it a shot. But once I learned that I had been awarded the scholarship, I was honored that the TGP team saw potential in me and believed that I would be a good addition to the Iceland program. To this day, I am is still so grateful for the opportunities that this scholarship gave me.

Going into the trip, I was super excited to explore a new country but I also wasn’t sure exactly what to expect. I didn’t know anyone who had ever gone on a TGP trip before so I knew little about what would actually happen on the trip. But, the TGP team did an amazing job at answering any questions I had and keeping me updated on everything I needed to know. Upon arrival, I met my cohort and we instantly meshed! All of the students that were on my trip (as well as our incredible guides) made this experience spectacular. My expectations were far exceeded as my trip to Iceland, studying and exploring, was definitely a highlight of my life.

“I believe that the life experiences and perspectives of underrepresented students are essential for building a better, stronger, more sustainable future as they bring something new to the table.”

The opportunities TGP gives students are so unique and unlike anything I have ever experienced. These unique learning experiences require new, unique perspectives to interpret and apply them. I believe that the life experiences and perspectives of underrepresented students are essential for building a better, stronger, more sustainable future as they bring something new to the table. As a woman in STEM, I was greatly inspired by my trip to Iceland because I was surrounded by an extraordinary group of women who came from various backgrounds and educations. I learned so much from each of them through discussions and collaborations that allowed us to share our unique perspectives.

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One of my biggest takeaways from my trip to Iceland was the importance and relevance of renewable energy. Getting to explore hydro and geothermal power plants really opened my eyes to the renewables industry. It was fascinating to see how the country runs on this energy supply and how the entire population recognizes the importance of clean energy.

The entire trip was an educational experience, but the actual classroom learning was incredibly interesting. The lecturers and professors that came to talk to us each had a distinct and in depth topic that they were passionate about. We discussed Icelandic geological history, hydropower, geothermal power, energy economics, and more. My favorite moment about the educational aspect was getting to actually go and visit the power plants to see what we had been discussing first hand.

“I came home from my trip with a new sense of motivation and inspiration for my career.”

My capstone project proposed an idea for a sustainability-focused line of hotels, which we titled GreenHus Hotels (an ode to Iceland as “hus” means “house”). My group recognized that the travel accommodation industry was incredibly wasteful and that there has to be some way to decrease the carbon footprint of hotels. Our capstone included a proposed design for a hotel room and the amenities that would be included. Some examples of how our hotels make sustainable, eco-conscious choices include composting any food waste, using low-impact appliances, utilizing solar energy, and growing food in a local garden.The biggest challenge we had was keeping our hotel within a reasonable budget. All the ideas that we had ended up costing way more money than was feasible. Our end result was that GreenHus hotels was a great idea but it would require large investments and huge sums of money to even be created. Despite the fact that our project wasn’t currently feasible, we had an amazing time working on our capstone together.

I want to thank everyone at The GREEN Program for giving me the opportunity to study abroad in beautiful Iceland. Everyone who works behind the scenes to help students through the entire process, from applications to alumni opportunities, deserves so much recognition for all that they do to make the dreams of our world’s future sustainability leaders come true.

Elizabeth’s advice for new GREENies:

Enrolling on a TGP trip is quite simple and I found it to be a smooth process. Once you apply and are accepted into the program, you then go on to select your specific trip. I knew I wanted to see Iceland in the summer, so I chose to travel in May. All of the pre-departure work is very straight forward and easy to complete. The biggest challenge that I faced was figuring out how I was going to pay for my trip. The financial aspect is definitely the most stressful part but this scholarship took a huge load off my shoulders.

Studying abroad is definitely a big commitment, especially a big financial commitment, and it can be difficult to decide what is best for you individually. However, the experiences that you get studying abroad with programs like TGP are priceless and will stay with you for your entire life. They are an investment in your future. I came home from my trip with a new sense of motivation and inspiration for my career.

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