Sustainable Materials and Technology major, Kamila Edwards spent her spring semester studying abroad in Valencia, Spain. The Jordan Scholar’s four months at the Polytechnic University of Valencia has been crucial to her develop as a student and an individual. Back at NC State, Edwards is also heavily involved with the Poole College of Management’s B Corp Clinic, which helps corporations improve their environmental and social impact. Check out Edward’s travel outside her comfort zone, supported by the CNR Student Assistance and Enrichment Fund.
How did this experience impact you?
I think studying abroad really forces a student to be independent in all senses. Not just with the small stuff or the happy stuff, such as traveling, but the hard stuff as well. If you get sick, or need help, your parents are no longer with you to hold your hand every step of the way. In this way, I think studying abroad has made me stronger and more independent, as well as more self-reliant. The amazing memories just add to that growth, and it is really hard to put a price on growing up and experiencing the world while studying at this age. Some of my experiences, such as traveling through Morocco, have also made me appreciative of what I have. I have much more gratitude now (I keep a gratitude journal), and I am actively thinking of my place in sustainability and simultaneously sustainability’s role in underdeveloped nations.
How has this opportunity enhanced your experience as a CNR student?
This opportunity has really enhanced my experience as not only a CNR student, but as a Sustainable Materials and Technology student. I am lucky to be in a city that really values sustainability and it has given me ideas and inspiration that I will carry with me back home. First and foremost, Valencia is a biking city. The bike share system, which costs around 40 euros for an annual membership is very sustainable and used by thousands of people every single day. Also, the waste treatment is meticulous, leading to much more recycling and re-use. These things help to protect our natural resources and have taught me that doing more, even within one city, is possible and should be sought after. I will come back to CNR classes with a better perspective of sustainability and possible solutions to the world’s imminent problems.
What did you enjoy most about your experience?
I enjoyed the moments where I could pause and realize that I am lucky enough to be in Valencia, Spain and traveling through Europe, the most. My happiest moments are probably walking around outside or biking through the city. I also have enjoyed getting to see how the Spanish people enjoy their life to the fullest, with the least amount of stress possible. The Valencians always make time for family, friends and relaxation. Coffee shops usually do not open until 8 or 9 am, because it is so much less common to wake up at the crack of dawn to start working. I hope to take some of these qualities with me as I travel back home. It is always important to take a deep breath and think about what matters most in life.
What did you find most challenging?
Personally, I found it most challenging to be away from my mom at times, especially in situations where I had to give up control. For example, when I traveled through Morocco, our trip was very cheap and through a local program called Happy Erasmus, and was much more stressful than I was used to. I was not used to overnight bus rides or not having access to a hotel at all times, etc. It was challenging not having any connection to talk to my parents or my boyfriend for the majority of the trip, but I think it made me stronger because I got through it. I also learned to try to put things in perspective, even when your mind is making it hard.
Would you recommend this experience to other students?
I would recommend studying abroad to all students. I really believe that being abroad helps a person grow in ways that cannot be achieved staying at a home university. Studying abroad also changes a person, but in a good way. You see the world and meet so many new people that your worldview expands drastically in a very short period of time. I am more open-minded about all kinds of people, especially people who are very different than me and I know my roommates feel the same way. It will help us work with all types of people in the professional world as well.
Have you participated in other hands-on experiences?
I worked in Hodges Lab as an undergraduate researcher, which I was really important for me because I was able to work on something outside of school, which has a lot of relevance to the industry. I learned a lot about acoustic emission sensing, which was interesting. As an individual I learned a lot from working with Dr. Rick Lemaster, who has since retired. He really helped me and emphasized the importance of precision and work ethic. I was also lucky enough to travel to Oregon to present my research to the Wood Based Composite Center Board, which was my first professional experience as a presenter. I highly recommend participating in undergraduate research.