Finding Purpose in Peru

To receive the opportunity to travel to another country and become immersed in the culture, learn about their way of life, meet new people, and gain new experiences is the dream of anyone who strives to live a purposeful life.

The GREEN Program gave me the chance to do just that.

Meet Ian

Peru: Water Resouce Management & Sustainable Practices
January 2020

Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Major: Industrial and Systems Engineering

The GREEN Scholarship Recipient

First, I believe it should be noted what an exquisite country Peru was. The landscapes were something I never imagined I would see, even in my most luxurious dreams. Some memorable moments included bus rides amid mountains that stretched so high you could not see the peaks, while others left me near lakes with rolling hills nearby and glacier capped mountains in the backdrop.

"That was what was most valuable in this whole thing – being there."

I applaud both of our guides and professors, Oscar and Fernando, for showing us the living conditions of some of the towns due to river pollution. It was because of this that we were able to gauge the situations firsthand and learn in depth about the underlying problems so that we could brainstorm and come up with effective solutions.  It is one thing to sit and read about the crisis, but there are unspoken truths that never come about unless you are there. This was all facilitated because of the tremendous job Oscar and Fernando did when explaining these situations to us.

As a part of our program, we created a Capstone Project. Our capstone presentation exemplified and reflected what we learned throughout our trips and classroom sections in the program.

Instead of going back to the United States with our solutions, my group wanted to help come up with solutions and ideas to reduce waste in Cusco, Peru. We had a lot of help and advice from Oscar and Fernando who knew the area much better than we did. In simple terms, our idea was to start a small change in Cusco, not a big one. Before you can tackle a huge problem, it is more realistic to set measurable and achievable goals – which is what we did. By targeting plastic waste, we came up with an idea to install water stations and give students biodegradable water bottles to refill for a price that comes cheaper than buying new water bottles. Our idea was fiscal and profitable as well as inspirational to the younger generations of Peru. Due to corruption at certain levels of the government we decided that getting the people involved first was our primary mission, and through this spark a change.

As I previously mentioned, this trip was for anyone who strives to live a purposeful life. I mean that in every sense of the word. The incentives to fix these environment issues comes from within and goes above and beyond a letter grade in a grade point average. Because of this reason, I believe I have a debt to fulfill to the GREEN Program and the people of Cusco and around the World and will strive to continue to make a difference in any way possible.

"In this program you deal with real problems happening right now."

The GREEN Program encouraged me to explore new adventures and allowed me to do something I have never thought possible- make true relationships over the course of less than two weeks. Through physical and academic challenges, I grew close with many people and it only enhanced the experience. The tour guides were as nice as could be and enjoyable. I got the opportunity to do things on this program that I'll never get to do again, and I promise I never wasted a second. Enjoy the experience and put yourself out there- that makes all the difference.

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