Program Guide to Brooklyn: A Student Perspective

Hi, I’m Hannah! I spent last summer with Sustainable Summer, both in Brooklyn, NY and Costa Rica. I chose these two programs for the incredibly different learning opportunities they offer, and for perspectives on both urban and rural sustainability initiatives. Here’s my take on Brooklyn!

So, what is the Brooklyn program all about?

The Sustainable Summer program in Brooklyn is special because it’s more than just an environmental program. Yes, I would learn about environmental issues and sustainability initiatives, but there was also the added excitement of getting to explore New York City and have that urban experience. 

Applying & Getting Ready

The application involved a personal statement and an essay. I already had a lot of ideas and opinions, so I just wrote what I knew! My advice:

  • Don’t leave it to the last minute! I found out about the program in March, and I would have liked to start it earlier. Many programs might already be full by then, so it’s important to start early!
  • It may seem easy at first, because you’re passionate and know what you want to say, but waiting until it’s late and then trying to juggle the application with everything else was hard! GIve yourself time to do it well. 

Getting ready for the program included completing some pre-work. It was some readings and videos to help prepare you for the program. It may seem like a lot at first, but spread it out, a little bit each week, and it’s totally manageable. The pre-course work Introduced me to a lot of articles that I didn’t know about, and provided so much context for what we would learn about in Brooklyn. It made me even more excited to go!

Welcome to Brooklyn!

I arrived at Pratt Campus earlier than most students, and had a chance to settle in. For the duration of the program, we stay in a residence hall on campus. We all shared a dorm room with a roommate. We got to know each other and got along- just be open to talking and asking questions- we were quick friends!

Meeting the group for the first time can be a little intimidating, there are a lot of people! It might feel hard to get to know everyone at first, but, my advice? Just talk! Put yourself out there, and remember everyone is in the same position! We spent the first few days really getting to know each other; with lots of games and activities, including a scavenger hunt all around Brooklyn!

That was our first adventure out and around Brooklyn- we got to get to know the city, and the subway, and each other,  and just run around and explore!

Academics: What is ‘class’ time really like in Brooklyn?

Class time in Brooklyn is a combination of classroom based workshops and talks, and a bunch of excursions around the city. One of my favorite ‘site visits’ was a Kayaking trip on the East River.  We had been learning about the New York sewage system and overflow pipes, and then we got to go out and see them from a totally unique perspective!

Some other Brooklyn highlights? I loved visiting so many different sites across the city, where we got to learn more about the process of recycling at the Sims Recycling Center or explore water management across Brooklyn. And there are so many opportunities to just enjoy New York in general; from going thrift shopping in different neighborhoods, seeing Phantom of the Opera, and even taking the subway for the first time!

The Final Project

The last academic component of the program was our project- we were tasked with re-designing a space at Pratt Institute to make it better suited to reduce stormwater runoff, while also meeting the needs of the people who use the space. The project was exciting because it allowed us to explore green infrastructure and apply it in creative ways. For example, we could put a green roof on the roof of Hewitt House, or put permeable pavers in front of it, but we needed to do math to figure out exactly how much rainwater we could capture and make decisions based on what would have the greatest impact. 


My final thoughts?

  • The final day was hard! I know a lot of people stayed up all night, to enjoy the last bit of time together. I knew I was leaving for Costa Rica the next day, so I was really excited! I had more time with Sustainable Summer coming up!
  • Don’t be too intimidated by the pre-program; it might seem like a lot, but it’s there to help you learn!
  • The program is great for people who want to explore the city and have autonomy
  • If you enjoy project based learning and something tangible to work towards, this program is for you!

Thank you Hannah! Check out our Program Guide to Dartmouth: Entrepreneurship and the Environment,  and stay tuned for a guide to Costa Rica: Seeds of Change!