In the summer of 2022, I was a participant in the Study of the U.S. Institutes (SUSI) for Student Leaders from Europe on Environmental Issues program, which was hosted by the University of Nevada, Reno. During those five weeks, I and 19 other participants from 16 European countries got to learn about climate change in the American West, disinformation, leadership, and science communication. We got chances to volunteer, learn about American culture, see beautiful nature, visit climate organizations and science research centers, and above all, connect with other active students, to share our passion and concern towards our planet.
The four weeks spent in Reno were incredible. We experienced the American college culture by staying in dorms with roommates, had classes from Monday to Friday, integrated ourselves into the American culture, and visited beautiful places like Lake Tahoe and Pyramid Lake. We had lectures about the science of climate change, social and environmental justice, agriculture, the history of climate change in the U.S., how environmental issues portray themselves in the media, disinformation, and overall, about the environmental issues and climate in the state of Nevada. We also got to learn from the people of the Northern Paiute Tribe, how environmental issues in Nevada affect their community, and about the unique relationship they have with nature.
"I couldn’t have imagined a better place to study environmental issues in the U.S. than Nevada."
I was nervous about spending a month in Nevada at first, but now I couldn’t have imagined a better place to study environmental issues in the U.S. than Nevada. The state has a lot of issues with water shortage and struggles with several environmental issues such as air quality, wildfires, and heat.
The last week of the program was spent in Washington D.C, meeting other SUSI program participants from other states and presenting our final projects. We had a diplomacy simulation about a water crisis between two nations, a study tour, and a closing conference. I had the opportunity to hold a speech on behalf of my SUSI program, which I am very grateful for.
During the program, I met the most incredible young active members of countries around the world, who are eager to make a change. People, who are truly young leaders in their countries. But our journey together didn’t end after the program.
Expanding the European Network of SUSI Alumni
In October, my SUSI peers and I got an opportunity to participate in an event in Brussels, Belgium, called Level Up, Accelerating Change, which was a youth democracy event created by the European Parliament, The European Commission, and the European Youth Forum.
At the event, there were over a thousand young participants from all over the world, all of whom are eager to make the EU a better place. We had workshops on inclusive communication, organizing sustainable and local events, claiming media space, activism, disinformation, and public speaking to understanding policy-making and democracy. We heard speeches from young activists and politicians, and were able to have conversations with policymakers, to truly express our opinions and views about Europe.
What an amazing event filled with great people, essential discussions, and an impactful setting to expand our European network. During this event, we got more tools and ways to be a part of initiatives of the change we need to make in Europe. We got to expand and challenge our mindsets and build bridges across the continent and reflect on these new skills from local but also global perspectives.
"This shows an example, of how amazing the Fulbright Finland grants, even the shorter ones like mine are and the influential opportunities you can receive because of them."
I wouldn’t have had this opportunity without the SUSI program and the connections I made there. This shows an example, of how amazing the Fulbright Finland grants, even the shorter ones like mine are and the influential opportunities you can receive because of them.
I am incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to participate in the SUSI program. It has given me incredible memories, life-long lasting friendships, and the opportunity to network and make connections. Getting to meet other young active people around the globe has given me hope for the future. The SUSI program helped me to grow, challenge my own mind, learn more things about myself and helped me progress as a leader. And I can’t wait for what’s to come, thanks to the Fulbright Finland Foundation and this program.