Studying abroad is an exciting experience, at TEAN, we encourage you to maximize your time abroad by branching out, trying new activities, and immersing yourself in the culture surrounding you. Our programs are designed to foster global thinking and inform local action, ensuring your exciting new experiences are not detrimental to the natural environment or local community. At the heart of our values as an organization, we Choose Earth, which means living sustainably while studying and traveling across Asia Pacific. Read on for some tips from TEAN’s Choose Earth team on how to make the most of a sustainable semester abroad.

Change up your daily habits

Start with a few small, eco-friendly practices to make yourself more aware of the environment in your daily life. Try reducing your utility usage by turning off the lights, taking shorter showers, or opening your windows for some fresh air instead of using air conditioning. Take public transportation when moving about town, and consider donating clothes or other items before you leave your host country—it’ll lighten your load when packing up!

Look at your diet

Seek out locally sourced foods to reduce your carbon footprint and support the local community, or explore your city on a trip to the local farmer’s market. Don’t forget to bring a few reusable bags with you, and look for non-packaged foods (when possible) to reduce plastic waste.

If you’re studying abroad in Australia or New Zealand, you’ll receive a KeepCup at your TEAN Orientation, which you can bring with you to your neighborhood coffee shop to be refilled for a discount. For those studying abroad in one of our locations in Asia, you’ll receive a reusable straw and a TEAN bag that you can take to local markets.
“On Saturday mornings head down to the Dunedin railway station. There you’ll find the weekly farmers market, a great place to stock up with plenty of delicious and fresh food.” | Photo by TEAN Alum Ryan Murtaugh, Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo who studied abroad in New Zealand

Educate yourself on local environmental issues

Read the local news about your new home city before you arrive—you’ll find information on your host country’s environmental views and issues, which will help you learn what the pressing topics are when it comes to eco-conscious initiatives in Asia Pacific. Some recommended sources are the Sydney Morning Herald, New Zealand Herald, The Korea Herald, The Fiji Times, Bangkok Post, and BBC World News.

Take an environmental science class

If it fits in your schedule, consider an environmental science class at your host university to gain a new perspective on global issues and reflect on the ways in which various countries are working to protect the earth. Social justice is another major component of the Choose Earth initiative, so look into courses at your host university that focus on inequality and human rights to broaden your understanding of some of the challenges the local community may face and how they are combating these issues. While searching for your courses, be sure to check out the Choose Earth course suggestions located on your Course Instructions page.

If you’re specifically looking for programs that are a great match for Environmental Studies and Sciences majors, check out this post on our TEAN blog. 

Stand up for wildlife

When planning trips on the weekends or for spring break, research any sites to ensure that they treat animals well and don’t force unwanted human interaction. One great way to stand up for the environment and wildlife is to support businesses and communities that are ethically and morally sound.

For those studying or traveling to Thailand, TEAN has a helpful blog about choosing ethical elephant parks and the dangers of riding elephants.

Photo by TEAN Alum, Kendra Hildebrand

Leave nothing but footprints

Have you heard the phrase “Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints”? Whether you’re walking barefoot on sandy beaches or hiking through local parks, do your best to protect your host country’s natural state and leave the environment how you found it. This includes staying on marked trails to avoid harming plants or animals and refraining from littering or picking flowers.

Offset your carbon output

We encourage students to explore places as far away as they wish, but we acknowledge that flights that get students to those destinations are a large contributor to climate change. Because of this, TEAN provides all students studying abroad with information on how they can offset the carbon used on their flight overseas. Keep an eye out for guidelines on the Step 4: Get Booked section for your program. If you’d like to offset your carbon on your own time, feel free to participate in a TEAN-approved eco-challenge!

Get involved in the community

Support your host city by shopping locally for souvenirs and eating at local restaurants and cafes rather than giving business to big chains. On campus, seek out student organizations that can provide opportunities to volunteer (reach out to your resident staff to find out more about your options!). Hear what past participants have said about their volunteer experiences abroad:

“Working with Teach North Korean Refugees (TNKR) was definitely one of the most rewarding experiences… if you’re someone who enjoys helping others and meeting new people this is a very special opportunity that you don’t want to miss out on.” –Alyssa Johnson, Korea University, Fall 2018

“I ended up choosing the New Zealand Riding for the Disabled and loved every second of it… I volunteered weekly helping with the therapy sessions. If you love horses or are passionate about working with people with disabilities, I highly recommend checking this place out.” –Marissa Cobuzio, University of Otago, Fall 2017

“This was taken on my lunch break during my volunteer day at Quarantine Island, where I helped to remove invasive species and track lizard populations on the island!” | Photo by TEAN Alum Marissa Cobuzio who studied abroad in New Zealand

Participate in our Choose Earth Certificate Program

If you’re especially interested in making sustainability a major part of your abroad experience, consider participating in TEAN’s Choose Earth Certificate. This add-on opportunity can be completed on any program. Previous students have chosen projects such as a harbor or beach trash clean up or going vegan or vegetarian for a week. There is an endless list of potential projects available, and you’re encouraged to come up with your own ideas.

There are endless ways to #ChooseEarth while studying abroad, so don’t doubt your ability to discover them throughout your semester! If you have any questions about sustainable practices—or have found your own convenient, yet fun ways to contribute to protecting the environment—let us know. Living a sustainable lifestyle shouldn’t stop while traveling, so go explore, leave no trace, and create amazing memories.

Use our program finder to search for a program that is a great match for you.