Spring Break travel offers students a new perspective

March 25, 2024

This Spring Break, international travel gave two Coastal Environmental Science students a glimpse of what life is like in very different parts of the world. Sierra Moran, a senior, traveled to Ghana as a part of the inaugural class of LSU Global Ambassadors, and Betsy Cook, a junior, journeyed to Panama as part of the LSU Global Water Brigades.


Sierra Moran

A group of people in Ghana stand outside and smile

Sierra Moran, on the far left, and her fellow Global Ambassadors learned about life in Ghana from a variety of perspectives.

– Photo credit: Sierra Moran

a skyline in Ghana

The Global Ambassadors spent eight days traveling around Ghana, including spending time in Accra, the capitol city.

– Photo credit: Sierra Moran

Sierra Moran made it through a rigorous nomination and interview process to become the CC&E representative to LSU Global Ambassadors. “I was honored to be nominated and [I] accepted immediately,” she said. While she had traveled on the North American continent, she said, “I have never have been overseas. This seemed like an amazing opportunity to be introduced to international travel.”

During the eight day trip, Sierra and her fellow travelers learned about Ghanaian life from a wide variety of perspectives. They spent a day with a local family, visited a center for unhoused youth, heard from experts on the country’s economy and political system and even met with representatives from the US Embassy. 

They also delved into the country’s past, including its history with the trans-Atlantic slave trade. “We spent a day touring the slave dungeons in Cape Coast, which was very heavy and sad. We learned about the long-lasting impact slavery had on Ghana and many West African countries,” Sierra said.

The Global Ambassadors’ itinerary was designed to give them a better perspective on pressing global issues. For Sierra, the meeting with the Director of Climate Change and Sustainability at the University of Ghana was especially impactful. “He educated us on the environmental injustices happening in Ghana, particularly the exploitation of natives and their land for mining of gold and uranium by USA and China.”

Sierra said the trip was eye-opening. “Our time in Ghana was one full of new experiences, cultural immersion, and education on the social, political, and environmental challenges Ghanaians are facing. I have returned home with a much wider perspective and motivation to continue traveling and learning about the environment in other countries.” 

Betsy Cook

A man and a woman stand and smile with a shovel

Betsy Cook joined CC&E Interim Dean Clint Willson and six other students on a trip to Panama.

– Photo credit: Betsy Cook

a group of students and native Panamanians stand together and smile

In addition to helping improve village water infrastructure, Betsy and her fellow volunteers made connections with local residents.

– Photo credit: Betsy Cook

Betsy Cook put service at the center of her spring break when she joined the LSU Global Water Brigades on a trip to Panama. “When I heard they were going to Panama, I knew I wanted to come.” Not only did the trip provide an opportunity to speak the Spanish she’d learned, she said, “I liked that it was a service trip.”

The LSU Global Water Brigades takes students on trips abroad, to work with communities around the world to develop clean water infrastructure. On this trip, Betsy joined CC&E Interim Dean Clint Willson and 6 other students as they journeyed to Panama, to Sinaí, a small village about 6 hours outside of Panama City.   

The village, like many in the area, struggled with access to clean water, an issue that can impact all areas of village life. The group's goal was to help improve the village’s infrastructure.

 “They had a chlorine filtration system, and so the water was relatively safe to drink,” Betsy said, “but their main problem was that they didn’t have running water anywhere. Everyone had to go to one place, and [bring] buckets and bottles just to get the water they need for the day.”

Such a labor intensive system means residents, particularly women, have to make compromises in order to survive. “What they end up doing is compromising on water safety,” Betsy noted.

Betsy said the LSU volunteers spent the bulk of their time trying to improve the way water was distributed in the village. “In terms of physical work, the main thing we were doing was building trenches, putting pipes down,” she said

The group had laid about 250 meters of pipe by the time the project was completed at the end of the week.

Betsy said the most meaningful part of her trip were the connections she made with local villagers, especially women. “They inspired me, how hardworking they were, and how passionate about their communities. In the United States, we can be more individualistic,” she said. “They inspired me to be a better steward of my community.”