From Alaska to Brazil: An Education Through Travel
Monique Couture came to Green Mountain College from her hometown of Santa Barbara, California, with three goals. She wanted to study abroad, travel to Alaska, and serve as an intern for the U.S. Department of State.
Now wrapping up her college career, she has made it through the list. Afrer she graduates in 2009, Monique's travels will continue - she's been accepted into the Peace Corps and will depart for the Pacific islands of Vanuatu as an environmental conservation extensionist.
Monique is quick to point out that in the end what she’ll remember most about her travels aren’t the bullet points, but the experiences. And there were a few: She took a boat up the Rio Maderia River in Brazil, falling asleep in a hammock wedged between crates of produce and chickens, the sounds of the jungle all around. She met world class cricket players in Guyana, practiced meditation in Japanese monasteries, learned how to shoot a 12-gauge shotgun in Alaska, and discovered a passion for Alaskan bluegrass.
And in between trips, she also managed to score the winning goal for the GMC soccer team in a game against Meredith College, propelling the Eagles to victory in the 2006 Northeast Championship.
It was all part of a whirlwind four years that took her quite literally around the world.
After her freshman year, Monique spent the summer working for the Bering Land Bridge National Preserve in Nome, Alaska, a 2.7 million acre stretch of land accessible only by plane or boat. In this remote place, she quickly learned to see the natural world as more than pretty scenery.
“Every Alaskan is out there fishing and hunting,” she says. “They’re actively trying to preserve their culture and their food system.”
Next up was Guyana, where she served as an intern for the U.S. Embassy. She welcomed visiting dignitaries, worked on visa fraud investigations and even coordinated an emergency response system for the cricket World Cup.
Then, she decided to explore South America on her own – making her way through French Guiana, Brazil and Uruguay by bus, plane and boat - before completing a GMC Spanish language program in Argentina.
Her junior year took her to Japan, where she studied Buddhism in Kyoto through a semester-long EcoLeague exchange. Then, last summer, she returned to Alaska as a river management intern for the federal bureau of land management. She spent many of her days in a canoe on the Gulkana and Delta Rivers, monitoring the waterways and talking with river users about proper etiquette.
Through GMC’s Progressive Program, she has designed a major that focuses on environmental management with an emphasis on international business, and after college plans to join the Peace Corps for protected areas management. She knows her study abroad will help her career - no matter what her path – and she’s already been changed by her travels.
“It’s important to see yourself outside of your own culture,” she says. “Through travel, you learn by living.”