State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

Taking the Classroom into the Field with SEE-U

A view of the Atlantic Forest, Brazil.
A view of the Atlantic Forest, Brazil.

The Summer Ecosystems Experience for Undergraduates, or SEE-U is an immersive five-week summer study abroad program that takes students to Jordan or Brazil to study ecology and the environment.

This program culminates in six Columbia University credits, satisfies two of the three core science curriculum requirements for non-majors, and can be used to fulfill course requirements in Analysis & Solutions of Complex Problems as well as the Skills / Actions areas. For more about the program, see our website or email:

Rolling admissions, apply anytime. Our next application review date with fellowship consideration is March 21.

Abbie Sharkey, who attended SEE-U Brazil in the summer of 2015, shares her thoughts and experience on the SEE-U Brazil program:

Hiking in the Atlantic Forest.
Hiking in the Atlantic Forest.

What is the most impactful or important thing you took away from the program?
The most important thing I took away from the program was the context. It was so much more impactful to see and experience in-person what I had learned about in the classroom. The graphs and formulas we used were more meaningful when we had collected the data ourselves. And it was extremely interesting to learn about the issues facing the specific area that we were living in.

What was your favorite part of the program?
My favorite part of the program was the week we spent in Picinguaba in the Serra do Mar State Park. Not only did we get to learn about the rich diversity and variety of the park, but we were able to experience it every day through our field activities. We hiked, swam, and paddled all around the area and still could only take in a fraction of the beauty. The view standing on the empty beach just a few steps from our dorm was the absolute pinnacle of my time in Brazil.

Picinguaba in the Sera do Mar State Park.
Picinguaba in the Sera do Mar State Park.

What do you think students should know before going on the program?
Before going on the program, students should know that they will have to deal with a heavy workload. It is such an immersive experience, that you really feel like you are living in your classroom. Still, everyone should feel confident that they will master the material thanks to the wonderful instructors.

Students should also not be intimidated by the individual project, even if they have no field experience. In fact, that makes it all the more exciting five weeks later when you have successfully completed your project. It is so easy to find something interesting to study, even just by taking a walk on the first day. And, again, the instructors guide you through each step. I surprised myself by how much I enjoyed spending hours in the field collecting data. It was so rewarding to bring all the data, research and hard work together into a presentation at the end. Everyone had such interesting projects and it was so fun to hear their presentations as well.

What surprised you about the program?
What surprised me most about the program was the close friendships and connections I formed with the other students as well as the instructors. We ate together, studied together, worked on team projects together, and spent our free time watching movies and playing volleyball together. Luckily, the program attracted fun, adventurous people who I loved to spend that time with.

Questions about the program or how to apply? Email

Banner featuring a collage of extreme heat images.

Recent record-breaking heat waves have affected communities across the world. The Extreme Heat Workshop will bring together researchers and practitioners to advance the state of knowledge, identify community needs, and develop a framework for evaluating risks with a focus on climate justice. Register by June 15

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