Q&A with a 3x TGP Alumna: Leah VanLandingham

Leah is a Hydrology student at Eastern Michigan University and an alumna of our Peru, Hawai'i, and Iceland programs. Leah wants to leverage her experience on TGP into a successful career addressing water inequality. 


What about The GREEN Program first drew your attention?

I was very drawn to sustainability related travel programs that my university did not offer. I am a hands on learner and acquired a major travel bug from my first study abroad trip through my university, and I felt in my heart that TGP was the right place for me. The topic of the trips really peaked my interest along with the idea of studying at an international university. Since no one I knew had heard of TGP, I wasn't sure of what to expect, but I knew I was ready to find out.

What was your biggest hesitation in your decision to travel with TGP? How do you feel about that now?

My thoughts going into this program were, 'Is this too good to be true?' I was scared of going to a foreign country entirely with people I didn't know.

Now, I am thrilled to be traveling with large groups of people that I have never met. The experiences have transcended from being anxiety-inducing, to an exciting and a new adventure every time! The GREEN Program is not too good to be true, it is just so good. I have been able to experience parts of Iceland, Peru, and Hawai'i that traditional tourists would not be able to. I have engaged with and learned from the local people of each country in a way that motivates me to give back.

So, is the cost of the program worth it?

TGP is absolutely worth it. Honestly, you are getting much more bang for your buck through TGP than any other short-term option. You get inside and outside of class instruction from professors as well as credit from international universities. You get thrilling and life-changing adventures that a price cannot be put on. Accomodations and meals are included, and after the program, you're connected to a huge network of individuals to help find internships and jobs, and more.

Most importantly, I think the price is worth it because we are supporting an organization of people that are change agents in sustainability. The TGP Team works tirelessly on initiatives associated with their mission to educate on sustainability and the importance of taking action now to ensure equitable change later.

"All I can say is the GREEN Program is nothing I expected, but everything I wanted and needed."

I truly feel like experiencing the Peru trip has given me energy back and revived my passions and confidence in myself.  Thank you so much for this program and for welcoming me into this family, and I cannot wait for more GREEN programs.

My time spent in Hawai'i was the most impactful two weeks of my life.

The trip was jampacked with adventure and culture. We jumped off of cliffs into the ocean and experienced once-in-a-lifetime sacred rituals of Hawai'ian and Polynesian people. We were greeted with the most humble and lively hospitality and learned the spirit of aloha. We ate delicious foods and visited farms where we learned the importance of organic farming. Hawai'i showed me the urgency of climate action and the importance of being a youth leader in making global change. This trip will show you how important intersectionality is within academia and the importance of your role in being a change agent.

Hawai'i showed me the urgency of climate action and the importance of being a youth leader in making global change. This trip will show you how important intersectionality is within academia and the importance of your role in being a change agent.

What was one of the most surpising or unexpected takeaways from your GREEN program experiences?

The beauty of human connection that I have learned and experienced over time. I'm not sure if I would call it surprising as much as transcending. I learned to appreciate every interaction and to make the most out of every connection I have made, and to take a little piece of every connection with me and to leave a little piece as well.


As you begin to look toward launching your career. What is your dream career, and has TGP had an impact on shaping this professional path?

TGP, particularly the community project we did in Peru, January 2017, directly influenced my career path. My dream career is to travel the world and engineer community-endorsed plans to clean contaminated water resources. I learned so much about the importance of community engagement in problem solving as well as the importance of cultural competency.  It was an amazing experience to be invited to talk to the members of the community and listen to the issue with their drinking water, what their solutions to the issue were, and how we could help them come closer to solving the issue. Helping communities at any level helps the greater society, and helps contribute to a better quality of life for everyone. 


"I am driven, excited, and am full of passion; I have a thirst for knowledge that is constantly looking for new opportunities to learn."

The GREEN Program is right for people who are ready for a challenge and ready to step out of their comfort zone. Also, people who really want to learn more about sustainability, their individual impact, and what difference they can make.

What advice do you have for future TGP students? 

Take advantage of a single second of this experience.  Also, never forget the why. Why are you here? Why did you choose to come to (Iceland, Peru, Japan, Hawai'i)? Find connections among your group, but embrace the differences as well. Challenge each other and teach each other. We all benefit from shared knowledge and experience. Remember, everyone is starting in a different place on their journey, and everyone plays an integral role in the process of accomplishing our shared Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

"GREEN invigorates me, gives me life, and gives me a huge boost of motivation and support to accomplish my goals." 

The GREEN family has helped me through many tough times and has given my life new meaning. I want to travel and learn and experience all life can give, and there's no other group I'd rather do that with than TGP. I am HUNGRY for all that GREEN has to offer and more, and I am so ready for more challenges and adventures thanks to TGP.

Text + Images by:
Leah VanLandingham
Eastern Michigan University 2019 

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