Pre-College Programs

March 15, 2017

Student Snapshot: Three students share their BELL: Alaska experiences

Alaska - Brown Pre-College Programs

It would be easy to go on and on about all of the exciting activities and learning experiences that make up the Brown Environmental Leadership Lab in Alaska (BELL: Alaska). There’s the natural beauty of the Kenai Peninsula, where much of the two-week program takes place. There’s the unique opportunity to learn about Alaska’s history from members of the Cook Inlet Tribe, and hear about the complex environmental issues facing the state from local researchers and other experts. Then there’s the immersion in nature through daily hikes, kayaking and plenty of other outdoor activities.

But the best way to understand what BELL: Alaska is all about is to hear about it from the students who have experienced it themselves. Here, three BELL: Alaska graduates share some of their favorite memories and learning experiences.

For program details, visit www.brown.edu/precollege/bell/alaska. The application deadline for this summer’s session is April 7, 2017.

Alaska - Brown Pre-College Programs

Zachary Szabo,
A senior at Rye High School in Rye, New York

Why did you choose to attend BELL: Alaska?

I am passionate about the environment, economics and government. BELL: Alaska allowed me to immerse myself in my interests and gain knowledge about topics I had not learned about before. Being in open, untamed land while learning about the ways to preserve and protect it was a huge pull for me.

What are your top memories of the program?

One of my favorite memories was eating lunch outside of the dorms in Kenai discussing charity work in South America. While this had nothing to do with our work in Alaska, it showed me that conservation, business and the government intersect and conflict all over the world. It also was just fun to be able to meet and talk to such interesting people who had done things across the globe.

Another memory I loved was sitting on top of a mountain after a long hike. We were being taught a land management lesson while looking out onto the vast valley and mountains with the slow moving clouds drifting across the huge sky. It was a surreal moment to take in, being taught in such a wild, real place that was right in front of us.

Alaska - Brown Pre-College Programs

What did you learn about Alaska that you didn’t know before?

I never anticipated the conflict that the locals have with outside conservation. While conservation is great for the environment, the people who live there need to live in a cash economy as they cannot live off subsistence anymore. Because of this they need to find jobs logging or in oil. While everyone in the lower 48 thinks putting restrictions on cutting and drilling is the best thing to do, Alaskans don't want to lose a stable source of jobs. I see now how complex land management is in a place like Alaska and hope to dive deeper into the subject.

How did the program change your plans for the future?

The program really solidified what I want to do in college. While I have such a broad range of interests between environmental science, business and international relations, the program taught me how interconnected those fields are. You can't make environmental policy without understanding the impact on the economy or the habitat and you have to understand the laws and government to be able to pass meaningful, realistic legislation.

What advice do you have for someone who might be undecided about enrolling?

If you are excited and curious about your world and are open to trying new things, then the experience will be one you won't forget.

When friends asked about your BELL: Alaska experience, what did you tell them?

I told them about the amazing people I met and the long-lasting friendships I made. I have never been surrounded by more intelligent, insightful, and charismatic people.

Alaska - Brown Pre-College Programs

Helynna Lin,
A junior at St. Mark's School in Southborough, Massachusetts, from Guangzhou, China

Why did you choose to attend BELL: Alaska?

I was looking for a summer program that hit three targets: it is related to environmental science; it brings me into exploration of a place that I've never been to; it emphasizes teamwork and community. BELL: Alaska met all these goals.

What are your top memories of the program?

The first is a model conference we took part in. We each took different roles in the Alaskan community - I was the legislative branch of Alaskan government - and spoke for our interests regarding the oil-drilling issue. Working with my teammates AND challenging them were both fun. That activity really brought me to a deeper understanding of the complexity of environmental issues. The second top memory is carrying logs in Kenai Peninsula. They were wet, heavy, muddy - they were beautiful. After about half the distance, my partner and I couldn't carry ours any longer, so another student stepped up and helped us. The program was full of sweet and kind people like that.

Alaska - Brown Pre-College Programs

How did the program change your plans for the future?

I chose to take an advanced environmental science course and joined the sustainability club the year after I came back from BELL. The program brought me a sense of responsibility to environmental issues as well as the courage to take actions. I know that protecting this globe has become a lifelong pursuit of mine.

When friends asked about your BELL: Alaska experience, what did you tell them?

I touched a jellyfish!!


Alaska - Brown Pre-College Programs

Zhesy Zhuang,
A senior at Aliso Niguel High School from Laguna Nigel, California, who will be attending Northwestern University in the fall.

Why did you choose to attend BELL: Alaska?

Where better to study climate change than Alaska? I was very interested in learning about global warming and with Alaska being on the forefront of climate change, this was the perfect program for me. BELL: Alaska to me was an opportunity for adventure and to learn something new. I wanted to take my experience and education and build something out of it and impact other people.

What are your top memories of the program?

At Peterson Bay I learned so much about jellyfish and sea stars, including sea star wasting disease and efforts to combat it with a gene mutation. It was really interesting to connect this disease to climate change. At Peterson Bay, I had the great opportunity to collect data for this disease. It was awesome.

How did the program change your plans for the future?

The program opened my eyes to new career possibilities and solidified my desire to work for and with the environment. It also recharged my determination to establish an environmentally aware and sustainable club at my school.

Alaska - Brown Pre-College Programs

What advice do you have for someone who might be undecided about enrolling?

If you're open to adventure, and hold a genuine passion, interest, or appreciation for the environment and the beauty of nature, go for it.

When friends asked about your BELL: Alaska experience, what did you tell them?

It was one of the best summers of my life.

Alaska - Brown Pre-College Programs

Picture yourself in Alaska this Summer?
Head over to the program page to apply now »
The application deadline for this summer’s session is April 7, 2017.