Emma Chow '15

  • Major:ES-Economics
  • Study Abroad Program:Swedish Program, Stockholm

Emma ChowWhy did you decide to study abroad and why did you decide to spend your semester in Morocco specifically?

As an ES-Economics major most interested in learning about how we can create more sustainable systems for living, I knew that I wanted to live in a sustainable city. The Swedish Program allowed me to experience Europe's "first green city" while taking an array of classes that contributed to both my ES major and Sociology minor. I was attracted to the small size of the program and the integration between The Swedish Program and the Stockholm School of Economics, which allowed me to fully immerse myself in Swedish culture in Stockholm.

How did you connect your off-campus study with your Bowdoin academics (honors project, independent study, continued coursework), post-Bowdoin plans, and/or extracurriculars, both before leaving and upon your return?

As I entered my semester abroad, I knew that I wanted to conduct an independent study or honors project upon returning to Bowdoin. I hoped that my time in Stockholm would inspire an interest related to sustainability that I could pursue in an academic project during my senior year. I had no idea that my experience living in such an incredibly efficient and sustainable city would spark my passion for creating inherently-sustainable cities for people. I realized that the way we design cities can not only reduce negative externalities on the environment, but can actually make people happier. All of this began with my research paper on bikeable cities, which I completed for a Comparative Healthcare class abroad. I returned to Bowdoin and took every course offered that related to cities: Applied Demographics, The City since 1960, and The Digital Image of the City. I also conducted two independent studies in Sociology during my senior year: the first explored what makes urban public space successful and the second was in collaboration with the City of Portland for improving public space along the waterfront. I provided design recommendations to Portland's Urban Designer for creating a Recreation Hub as a component of the India Street Sustainable Neighborhood Plan. Long-term, I hope to manage global projects for sustainable urban development.

What do you believe was the impact and value of study abroad for you academically and personally?

Study abroad played a pivotal role in shaping my academic interests. It helped me realize that urban planning can connect my interests in sustainability, economics, and human happiness. On a personal level, study abroad exposed me to foreign cultures for the first time, taught me to be resourceful, and inspired me to explore more of the world.

Does international study, work or travel figure into your any of your future plans? What was the best learning moment outside of the classroom?

I opted for a January start date for my job after graduating so that I can return to Europe and then continue to Southeast Asia and the Pacific before I start working. I am hoping to secure work on international projects as a consultant. I am also considering pursuing a masters or MBA in Europe. 

What advice can you give to current Bowdoin students about going abroad?

Bottom line, I definitely recommend studying abroad, especially to students who have never traveled or lived in a new place for an extended period. Make sure you do lots of research on various programs and think about what you want to get out of your total experience. Don't choose a program just because your friends are going there! Really push yourself, take risks, go in with no expectations, and say "yes" to every opportunity you are faced with. Take advantage of every day and don't treat it as a break from your "reality" of life in the U.S. -- abroad is very real!