“If they can do it over there, why can’t we do it here?” summed up the feelings of many of the 21 Florida Gulf Coast University students who recently spent 12 days in Europe as part of a study-abroad program on sustainable design.
The students were led on the May excursion by Associate Professor Mike Salmond and his wife, Integrated Studies Instructor Dr. Jacqueline Salmond.
The trip took students to London, Copenhagen and Malmo, Sweden. These cities were chosen, Mike Salmond said, because “they were places where we knew we would have really strong access, they were places where we knew people, and we knew that Scandinavian countries are very strong on sustainability.”
Mike Salmond and Dr. Jacqueline Salmond are developing a course called “Global Sustainable Design” at FGCU as part of the new digital media design major that focuses on the issues facing our fragile ecology and proposes practical solutions toward sustainability across a variety of media. The course also looks toward changing attitudes, products, spaces, communications and communities as a positive step toward a greener, more ecologically balanced future.
Dr. Jacqueline Salmond teaches “Colloquium: A Sustainable Future,” so both educators’ areas of expertise made them natural leaders for the study-abroad project.
In Copenhagen, the group visited places such as the Danish Architecture Museum, the Copenhagen Design Museum, and Stupid Studio — a design agency where Service Designer Lise Duusgaard Stokholm talked about their sustainable design projects and the students also heard from LEGO Senior Innovation Manager James Norwood. The stop in Malmo included a visit to Malmo Castle, which is also a nature museum and housed a large sustainability exhibition. London experiences included: a historic walking tour; the Tate Modern Contemporary Art Museum; The Victoria & Albert Museum, which featured a sustainable food exhibition; The Crystal sustainable cities initiative; a studio tour and design talk at Forpeople, a multi-disciplinary creative agency; and the London Design Museum.
“I’ve always wanted to visit London and knew that the Salmonds were from England and thought they would be good to travel with,” said FGCU senior Abbey Tomaszewski, one of the students taking part in the trip. She said she was especially enthralled with London, as she likes the big-city life of places like New York City.
Tomaszewski found the European cities ahead of the United States in dedication to sustainability, adding, “We’re very lazy here.” She gave examples of the popularity of bike riding in Europe and the practice of charging for shopping bags in London.
Tomaszewski said she was inspired by London’s Sky Garden, which affords spectacular views of the city, and also was particularly fond of Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen, an amusement park where the students enjoyed the attractions with the Salmonds. The integrated studies major said she highly recommends a study-abroad trip for those who have the desire and opportunity.
For the most part, students paid for the European trip themselves. Mike Salmond said said FGCU’s International Services Office was a big help in finding good deals on flights, lodging and other travel expenses. Students got around the cities by one of the oldest sustainable methods: public transportation.
Most of the students had never traveled abroad before, so some of them were a little nervous about being in such an unfamiliar environment. “There was a mix of excitement and apprehension” among the rookie world travelers, Salmond said.
The goals of the trip, he said, were twofold: to broaden the students’ perspective outside of the Fort Myers area and to look at how other countries use sustainability, with the hope that students look at the European examples and ask, “Why can’t we do that here?”
Many of the students made their own videos during the trip, and Salmond said the different perspectives of the students were interesting. Their videos were an expression of the different things that each took away from the experience
During their free time, students had the chance to go exploring by taking walks and biking. Salmond said that for most of the young travelers, “London was a sensory overload.”
One of the best things about this kind of trip, he said, is that it had a unique focus — sustainable design — compared to some study-abroad trips, which can be more focused on broader cultural exchanges and experiences.
The community will have a chance to see what the students discovered at an upcoming exhibition, “Global Sustainable Design.” Curated by the Salmonds, the exhibition will be at the FGCU ArtLab Gallery from Aug. 19 through Sept. 5. There will be an opening reception 5-7 p.m. Aug. 22.