BES 2011, Geography
MES 2014, Geography
Energy Conservation Officer at the Waterloo Catholic District School Board
WHERE SHE’S TRAVELLED
In 2009, Elena Weber-Kraljevska was on a co-op term with Environment Canada, Environmental Emergencies Section in Toronto, learning about the effects of oil spills in Ontario. Fascinated about the work her team was doing, she wanted to learn more. The same year, Professor Brent Doberstein offered a field research course to the Dominican Republic, Elena signed up, thinking it would be interesting to learn about the effects of oil spills in a marine environment. Coincidentally, the Dominican Republic experienced a spill that same year and Elena was able to conduct first-hand research.
WHAT SHE LEARNED
This field research course helped Elena grow as a person. She realized her passion for research, learned the culture of the country, connected with the local community, and practiced her Spanish. The course gave her a solid base to do her undergraduate and master thesis, which explored the environmental impacts from oil dispersants used at the Gulf of Mexico spill in 2010.
ADJUSTING TO A NEW CULTURE
Besides being open and accepting of the new culture, Elena offers tips on getting the most out of an international experience. “Research popular national meals, music, and important places to visit. Check out the local restaurants and cafes. Go to museums and historical sites. And of course, get off the typical tourist path so you can see what the everyday life looks like.”
ADVICE FOR STUDENTS
Elena says it’s important to know what kind of a traveler you are. “Some people are comfortable having everything planned out whereas others prefer to explore. There are always going to be some kind of challenges when you travel abroad. You just need to be aware of any strict rules in the country you are visiting and things that should be followed to make your trip more pleasant.”
One challenge Elena did face but could have overcome with pre-planning was finding suitable vegetarian food. She suggests that if you do have a dietary restriction, a little homework can make all the difference. As a true environmentalist, she also advises to bring a travel mug, plate, and utensils to reduce waste.