Gina Rossi - Environmental Policy

I came to UCD to pursue a master’s in environmental policy.  I had spent the past five years as a practicing architect in the United States.  When I started to consider the option of returning to school for an advanced degree, looking at international schools was a very deliberate choice.  I had the opportunity to spend a semester in Rome during my undergraduate program and felt that the life learning, not just academic learning, was incredibly beneficial.  Moreover, considering that the focus of my master’s is environmental, and the challenge of climate change is a global problem, it seemed necessary to have instructors and classmates that could share perspectives from around the world.  Out of the international universities that I was considering, it was clear the UCD prides itself on the large international student population on campus.  

UCD was the right choice to enable my wish for a diverse program body.  Out of my class of 20, only 6 students are from Ireland, with others from China, India, France, the UK, Turkey, South Africa, Sierra Leone, and a couple of fellow Americans.  While the curriculum focuses primarily on European Union environmental policies, hearing the perspectives from my classmates on how these policies might or might not work in their countries was fascinating, and important. To solve the threat of a warming planet, the world needs to work together, and having conversations with people who come to the table with different backgrounds and values is crucial. The environmental policy program at UCD is a place to start these conversations.  

And, all while enjoying a beautiful campus. I decided to live on campus and am so glad that I chose to do so, especially since finding housing in Dublin is challenging.  My roommates were as diverse as my classmates, which was wonderful.  Even though my classes were on the opposite side of the campus (read 25-minute walk) it was convenient to be able to avoid traffic and public transportation.

Then the world changed due to COVID.  I left Ireland in a rush to get back into the US before the travel restrictions were put in place.  The university had decided just before I left that classes for the remainder of the semester would be conducted remotely.  That ended up being the case for the summer too, so I’ll finish my program outside of Ireland.  While not ideal, my professors worked hard to check-in with us and encouraged attending Zoom meetings so that we would all remain in touch.  And, at the beginning of each virtual meeting, they would have us give a quick update on how we were doing and were very understanding and flexible with deadlines. 

It certainly would have been preferable to finish the program on campus, but everyone put in a lot of effort to work within a difficult situation.  I appreciate the effort from UCD to quickly pivot to remote learning and the flexibility and understanding of the university to help with the challenges of departing my campus accommodation quickly.

I hope at some point in the not too distant future to be able to return to Ireland for a proper farewell to the place and the friends I made. My program content has certainly taught me about environmental policy, which will hopefully enhance my professional future.  But, I’ve also learned that the cliched “don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today” are words to live by.  I had planned to see more of the country during the spring but, obviously, that did not work out.  So, I encourage other international students who choose UCD to take the trip, even if you’re busy and think you’ll go next week. Especially as someone who is from a large country, Ireland (and even Europe) is extremely accessible. So, take advantage of that, meet people who are different from you, see places you thought you never might; the life learning from those experiences is invaluable and will enhance your academic education.