Mia Oenoto from Jakarta, Indonesia, is studying BSc Environmental Science at Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University. She is currently completing her Final Year Project about community food waste, as she explained:
“My project is about analysing the attitudes and behaviours of XJTLU students towards food waste. Students in the Department of Environmental Science are given the freedom to choose projects that interest them, and food waste was something I was curious to investigate."
Mia said that students are encouraged to pick their own topics and build their own methodologies to complete their research projects.
“Environmental science is an interdisciplinary major,” she said. “I need to know about law, international relations, and science. It can be challenging, but I really enjoy it.”
GROWING UP IN JAKARTA
Mia attended high school in Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia and a very densely populated city. She originally planned to study law or medicine at university, but became interested in environmental science through the influence of her mother.
“She studied finance and accounting as an undergraduate,” said Mia. “I think if environmental science had been available as a major at the time she did her undergraduate degree, she definitely would have taken it.”
Mia’s mother (pictured above, left) works as an accountant and her father is a civil engineer who specialises in building bridges. Her mother shared with Mia her love for the outdoors, and her concern for environmental issues, giving her Al Gore’s books on climate change when she was a teenager:
“She asked me to read them to improve my English,” she said. “I think the real reason was to raise my awareness about global warming. My mother encouraged me to think about the future and how I can contribute to it, not just to find a job and make money.”
In her late teens Mia took part in a volunteer trip to Bunaken Island in the Northwest of Indonesia, which has a high level of biodiversity and many coral reefs. For a week, she and a friend assisted a team to help to clear up plastic waste from the area:
“We used nets to collect the garbage while we dived in the waters,” said Mia. “There was really a lot of trash on the sea bed. It was shocking, especially as the island was supposedly under the protection of the local government.”
She and her friend came across sea creatures such as turtles that had become trapped in plastic bags, and helped to free them. They also witnessed illegal fishing, and one of the direct impacts of climate change – the bleaching and death of coral reefs due to rising sea water temperatures.
“In a way it was a fun trip as we got to practice scuba diving while helping to clear up the waste,” said Mia. “But I did see some troubling things and it inspired me to think about how to contribute to these things in a more long-term way.”
STUDYING BSC ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE AT XJTLU
It was Mia’s mother who first gave her a brochure from XJTLU in which she read about the modules she would later go on to study as part of BSc Environmental Science.
“The option to learn Chinese while studying here really appealed to me,” said Mia, “and I was also attracted by the opportunity to get a degree from the University of Liverpool and an XJTLU degree approved by the Chinese Ministry of Education.”
Mia noted her initial surprise at how many different aspects there are to studying environmental science at XJTLU:
“We have to acquire in-depth knowledge in a lot of different but related areas,” she said. “A lot of modules are about natural sciences, but we also have lessons in economics, statistics, law, and international relations.
“We don’t just read journal articles,” she continued. “We read the real documents that form the basis of agreements between countries about how to prevent climate change.
“For example, our lecturer will give us documents from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to read before class. Then we’ll discuss them together, and we’re expected to refer to these documents in our essays, and answer questions about them in our exams.”
Mia described a recent ‘roleplaying case study’ in which she and her class pretended to be environmental consultants for a cement company wanting to renew its operating permits. Students had to determine whether the company was abiding by environmental policy guidelines, and write an environmental impact assessment report.
“The Department incorporates a lot of different perspectives and collaborates with other departments including Biological Sciences and the Business School,” said Mia. “We’ve had guest lectures by academics from Urban Planning and Design, and Architecture.”
“We’ve also watched and discussed documentary films such as a Leonardo DiCaprio’s ‘Before The Flood’. It’s amazing. It really inspired me,” she added.
After she graduates, Mia plans to gain some working experience before applying for a masters:
“I’ve already been looking into options for masters study, but I want to get a feel for the job environment so I can make a better choice later,” she said.
In her spare time Mia enjoys hiking, an interest she shares with her mother, and continues to scuba dive during her holidays. She also enjoys sailing.
writer and photographer: Danny Abbasi