Elizabeth Le, a sophomore studying environmental engineering, was recently announced as the recipient of a Benjamin A. Gilman International scholarship to study abroad in South Korea.
Le traces her interest in sustainability back to her childhood. “I had a lot of mentors, teachers and people in my everyday life who were particularly passionate about the environment,” she says. “I knew from middle school that I would pick a career in sustainability; it was just a matter of figuring out what I wanted to do under that umbrella.”
The picture began to come into focus when, as part of the STAR Scholars Program through the Pennoni Honors College, Le took on a research project under the guidance of Franco Montalto, PhD, professor of civil, architectural and environmental engineering.
“I studied city planning, specifically for Philadelphia,” Le explains. “The city’s sewage system is so old, and it gets overwhelmed easily in heavy rain, so additional pollutants get washed into waterways. Professor Montalto and I researched designing green stormwater infrastructure, specifically how rain gardens can hold water that would otherwise create flooding.”
While studying abroad, Le will attend Hanyang University, a renowned engineering college in Seoul. In addition to the academic benefit, Le hopes to soak in the culture and language of South Korea.
“As an Asian-American growing up, I didn’t see much representation in the popular media here,” she says. “So I grew consuming a lot of Korean TV shows, and as I consumed more of that media, I really gained a familiarity with the culture and even some listening comprehension skills in Korean. I’m hoping that, by immersing myself there, I can become more fluent in the language.”
Le also hopes that her experience will help broaden her horizons as her studies progress.
“I know I want to have a career that involves sustainability, but I’m not sure exactly what I want to concentrate on,” she says. “I want to have a lot of diverse experiences and gain work experience before I make my final decision. This study abroad opportunity is a big part of that.”