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The IIES providing opportunities to engage with one another and learn from each others’ experiences and knowledge

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Student Perspective

By: Pearl Finkelzon, Master’s in Canadian Studies and Indigenous Studies | Trent University, Canada

I found out about the International Institute for Environmental Studies (IIES) conference a month before it was scheduled from Professor Julian Aherne. We had been discussing different networking and collaborative opportunities that Graduate students may not know about. He had mentioned this exciting opportunity and although I thought it may have been too late to apply, I decided to at least try. I reached out to Raquel Scott, Operations Coordinator of the IIES, and she put me in touch with Professor Doug Evans, the IIES Director. Both were super helpful, and encouraging, answering any questions I had. By the next time I saw Professor Aherne, I was set to go to Chile!

Udd View Iies International Institute For Environmental Studies
Coffee Patio Udd Iies International Institute For Environmental Studies

Image (left): Mountain views while waiting for the bus at UDD; Image (right): Coffee break at UDD – It was great to interact and sit in the sunshine.

This was my first time participating in the IIES Annual Science and Policy Workshop and Graduate Student Forum. They were held in Santiago at the Universidad del Desarrollo, Puerto Montt at the Universidad San Sebastián, and Puerto Varas respectively. The areas that we stayed in were beautiful and it was great to see the diverse landscapes of mountains, volcanos, lakes, as well as the cityscapes.

Jennifer Dockstator Iies Graduate Forum International Institute Environmental Studies

During the Science and Policy Workshop, our days were very well structured filled with a diverse array of workshop topics. I was not sure whether I would fit in or understand as I have more of a humanities and social science background, but I got to decide which workshop sessions I would go to and learn about different fields including microplastics, water contamination, air quality, mining, and agriculture. I found that the networking breaks were helpful as we got to engage with folks before and after their presentations.

Image: Professor Jennifer Dockstator presenting her topic Re/Balancing Ways of Knowing for Sustainable Living with a Cree Nishnaabe Medicine Circle

I thought it was great to meet students and professors from different institutions and have coffee or lunch with them without having to schedule it as we were already together. My presentation, Harvest Now!? Navigating Human Dynamics in an Established Community Garden, went well. There were some questions and I got to speak to students in Chile who spoke of their sidewalk garden movement and community connections. This part of the conference concluded with a shared meal. It was great to continue talking with folks and allowed us to say goodbye to those who would not be joining us in the next part of the conference.

The Graduate Student Forum was a fun continuation of the conference. Many of us knew each other from the Science and Policy Workshop and so it felt more relaxed. There was also more free time so we could explore the city more freely. The conference days at the university were different as we moved around a lot, but they felt more flexible and hands-on with discussion-based activities, learning how to use GPS navigation, and water testing. It was great to be able to see two cities, meet more students and professors from Chile, and learn more about the different environmental issues and solutions presented.

Image: Beautiful view of Lake Llanquihue in Puerto Varas across from the Hotel Bellavista

Lake Llanquihue Volcanos Iies International Institute For Environmental Studies
Restaurant Iies International Institute For Environmental Studies
Lobster Soup Iies International Institute For Environmental Studies

Image (left): Garden restaurants in Puerto Varas – it was nice to walk around and see all of the different cafes and shops; Image (right): Mystery recommendations – trying new foods was a whole group experience as people watched, some tasted, and shared their food.

Overall, I found the IIES 8th Annual Science and Policy Workshop and Graduate Student Forum to be a great experience! It allows you to meet people with different backgrounds from different countries, learn about their research, and spend a week together in a new country/city. My favourite moments were interacting with folks and learning more about them. I enjoyed spending time with my roommate, talking to folks while we waited for the bus, at dinners, on walks, and on the beach during sunset. For those of us from Trent University, one of the phrases that was said during the week was, “We came all the way from Trent to Chile to meet each other!”. Engaging with one another, learning from each others’ experiences and knowledge, and connecting with others is my main takeaway.

Thank you for all the work that went into planning and executing this event and to the host institutions!

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