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Spring break in Iceland? For BVU sophomore, ‘cool’ destination expands career vision

February 01, 2022 3:30pm

Thanh “Susi” Phung won’t spend Spring Break on the sun-splashed beaches of South Padre Island or Cancun.

Rather, Phung heads to Iceland. For Spring Break. Free of charge.

“Iceland is a leader in green energy,” says Phung, a Buena Vista University sophomore from Sioux City. “I’m going to study renewable energy.”

The experiential learning opportunity is financed through the Clifford A. Rae Academic Achievement Award, a $4,000 award Phung earned for her academic performance and initiative. She was one of 18 BVU students (nine in the Siebens School of Business, nine in the School of Science) who qualified for the award, the 11th straight year BVU has offered these scholarships that may assist with expenses related to travel and lodging in an internship or experiential learning initiative. The awards, which range up to $5,000, represent another illustration of the grants and scholarships that comprise 75 percent of BVU financial aid, awards that need not be repaid.

“I told my parents I could have a learning opportunity 3,000 miles away and they asked, ‘How are you going to pay for it?’” Phung recalls. “I told them I earned a scholarship that would pay for it.”

BVU Assistant Controller Tanya Landgraf directed Phung to The GREEN Program, which offers students around the world a chance to participate in lectures and programming on renewable energy at Reykjavik University, located in the capitol of Iceland.

Phung will spend each morning learning about the ways in which Iceland effectively produces 100 percent of its electricity and 70 percent of its total energy consumption from renewable sources. Her afternoons will be spent seeing parts of a country she never dreamed of visiting.

“There’s even a natural hot spring in Iceland we’ll visit. That’s kind of a bucket-list item for me,” she says.

When not studying, this Dean’s List student competes in tennis for the Beavers. She’s also a member of the Black Student Union. When not on campus, Phung can be found working as a pharmacy clerk at Hy-Vee in Storm Lake. Her part-time work coupled with multiple scholarships helped convince Phung to select BVU.

“I earned a BVU Presidential Scholarship and qualified for aid with the Pell Grant and the Iowa Tuition Grant,” she says. “Having lots of scholarships available helped me make my decision about BVU. Plus, the campus is so pretty.”

BVU’s location on the shores of Storm Lake helped attract Phung, who studies environmental science. The lake, and others like it, remain a focal point as she prepares for a trek to Iceland while sorting out her career possibilities.

“I have fears about our planet and how it will sustain us,” she says. “I want to one day make renewable energy more commercially available. Or, I might work in wildlife conservation, or urban planning.”

Spending a memorable Spring Break in Iceland will broaden her perspective. It may also, ultimately, narrow Phung’s scope as she lends her talents, energy, and knowhow in making the world ever more sustainable.