Atmospheric Sciences Students Learn Abroad In The Alps
Each year, more than 5,600 Texas A&M University students participate in high-impact international experiences, earning academic credit and conducting research while also exploring the world and expanding their cultural horizons through Texas A&M Education Abroad.
Every spring since 2015, undergraduates in the Department of Atmospheric Sciences have benefited from the opportunity to take part in a unique Maymester program, Student Experiences Abroad in Meteorology (SEA-MET), designed to provide a significant scientific and cultural experiences in global settings that feature distinct approaches to and mechanisms for meteorology.
This year, Texas A&M atmospheric scientists Dr. Don Conlee and Dr. Gunnar Schade accompanied about two dozen Aggies to the Alps, exploring various locations in Munich, Germany, and Innsbruck, Austria, during a whirlwind 16 days of study, travel and cultural exchange — vital components in broadening students’ perspectives and preparing them for career success as well as potential leadership roles in an increasingly international environment.
“Studying abroad allows students to experience a different culture and gain a global perspective that they may not get to experience otherwise,” Conlee said. “Since our first trip in 2015 to Beijing and Qingdao, China, the goal has been to explore different countries and get students into climates they aren’t used to being in.”
The two-week trip focused on meteorological phenomena affecting the European continent, with special emphasis on Alpine and urban meteorology and mitigation efforts. The group visited two German Weather Service offices, where they toured their facilities, explored their instrumentation and learned about their day-to-day operations. Highlights included excursions, student-led weather briefings and sight-seeing.
“This study abroad trip was not like a typical study abroad trip where you take a class at a university,” said Hope Boland ’24, a junior meteorology major from Cary, N.D., who was embarking on her first adventure with SEA-MET. “Instead, we visited a lot of different professional places within the meteorology field. The main goal was to learn about meteorology in the Alps, study urban heat island effect and explore the differences between American and German culture.”
Fellow first-time SEA-MET traveler Taylor Peña ’22, a senior meteorology major from Mission, Texas, says she enjoyed the chance to immerse herself in a new culture, try new foods and connect with locals as part of her initial education abroad experience.
“Going on this trip allowed me to reach heights that I would have never imagined,” Peña added. “It allowed me to venture into a world that my ancestors and even immediate family had never been. I had never gone overseas, and I also had never seen mountains before.
“Overall, I had a wonderful time. I truly learned so much about the vast world of mountain meteorology and air quality.”
During the trip, students also attended a student meteorology conference (StuMeTa), where they got the opportunity to interact with fellow meteorology students from Central Europe.
“Before coming on this trip, I was somewhat unsure of graduate school and how to get into the air quality field,” Peña said. “However, after meeting people and forming connections, I now have a much clearer idea on how I want to pursue my career path. I also learned that I have a strong interest in traveling, which I did not know was within me prior to this trip.”
Boland said she also discovered new things about both meteorology and herself while in the Alps.
“I learned a lot about the weather in mountainous regions and got to experience them like never before,” she said. “Most importantly, I learned that I love to travel and want to explore other countries more.”
Although the SEA-MET program is targeted toward meteorology undergraduate majors and minors, Conlee says the content is often appropriate for other majors across the College of Arts and Sciences as well as the broader Texas A&M campus. For more information about SEA-MET and the upcoming May 2024 trip to Barbados, visit the study abroad page on atmo.tamu.edu.