Since middle school, Arantxa has had a dream to make the world a more sustainable place, and she’s making it come true!

Q. What brought you to UCR University Extension?

A. As an aeronautical mechanical engineering student, I was quite aware of sustainability. Ever since middle school, sustainability has been a part of my life. My school used to hold science fairs, the main topic of which was climate change. However, it wasn’t until university that I undertook my first sustainable project: a trash can with a waste separation system. This event marked a turning point in my life, prompting me to start searching for scholarships where sustainability was a focal point. Studying abroad had always been one of my life goals, and I saw an opportunity to align this with my passion for sustainability. Initially, I participated in a program called “COP Operation, Youth Ambassadors for the Climate,” where I learned a great deal about climate change. Later, when the Ambassadors Scholarship was announced at my university and I discovered that the Sustainable Transportation Program was an option, I did not hesitate to apply. Fortunately, I was admitted, which became one of the best experiences of my life.

Q. What were some of the unexpected hurdles in your journey?

A. Language was a significant challenge. I have been studying English for as long as I can remember, but it's certain that I encountered hurdles while trying to fully comprehend some discussions and classes. This was particularly evident during my study abroad experience, where the technical jargon and fast-paced environment intensified these challenges. I am immensely grateful to the staff in my program, as they went out of their way to ensure we understood everything and felt supported throughout our studies.

Q. What were some of the unexpected benefits?

A. One of the unexpected benefits was learning about various strategies to tackle traffic issues. Although my career is specialized in airplanes, gaining knowledge about different modes of transportation and their efforts to reduce CO2 emissions was fascinating. This exposure broadened my perspective on how each sector of transportation addresses climate change uniquely. It was enlightening to see the interconnectedness of sustainable practices across different transportation systems.

Q. Looking back at where you were when you started this journey, where did you think or hope it would lead you?

A. When I first embarked on this journey, my primary goal was to blend my passion for aeronautical engineering with my longstanding commitment to sustainability. I hoped it would lead me towards innovations in aeronautics that could significantly reduce environmental impacts. The unexpected benefits, such as gaining a broader understanding of sustainable practices across various modes of transportation, definitely shaped my perspective. This experience has indeed led me to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle. Being exposed to different strategies to tackle traffic and CO2 emissions outside of aviation has been enlightening. Now, I am more aware than ever of how climate change affects our lives, and this awareness has 'opened my eyes.' I am eager to extrapolate what I've learned about sustainable transportation to my area of expertise in aeronautics. This journey has not only fulfilled my initial aspirations but has also expanded my vision of how I can contribute to my field and society in meaningful ways.

Q. What difference did your experience at UCR University Extension make to your life path and career goals?

A. The program at UCR University Extension was transformative in multiple ways, far beyond my initial focus on sustainable transportation. Not only did it deepen my expertise in sustainability within transportation, which was phenomenal, but it also emphasized the power of connections. This being my first study abroad experience, the opportunity to forge new friendships was one of the most rewarding aspects of my journey. These relationships have enriched my perspective and are likely to influence my future collaborations and professional network.

Furthermore, the program allowed me to achieve one of my major life goals—studying abroad and contributing meaningfully to the fight against climate change. Participating in the Sustainable Program wasn't just about personal growth; it was about actively engaging in solutions that address global challenges. I am aware that my individual efforts might seem small in comparison to the broader world's needs, but I firmly believe that collective small efforts can lead to meaningful change. This belief fuels my commitment to continue working towards sustainable practices in aeronautics and beyond, hoping to inspire others to take action as well.

Overall, the experience at UCR University Extension has not only fulfilled some of my goals but has also redefined them, making my career path toward making a more substantial impact on environmental sustainability a reality.

Q. Was there a particular department, staff member, or instructor memorable to your experience?

A. While I do not have a specific favorite, my entire experience within the Sustainable Transportation Program at UCR University Extension stands out as truly transformative. The program's staff and instructors collectively made a lasting impression on me. Their amiability and dedication were remarkable, and the knowledge they imparted has been invaluable to my personal and professional growth.

Each instructor went above and beyond to ensure that all students, regardless of their language backgrounds, fully understood the material. This was especially crucial for me, as English is not my first language. The support from the program's staff did not just help me academically; it also made me more confident in my abilities and more determined to contribute meaningfully to the field of sustainability.

The inclusive and supportive environment fostered by the instructors was instrumental in helping me achieve my goals and advance on my career path.

Q. What are your hopes and aims for your future?

A. I'm deeply committed to advancing sustainability in the aeronautical sector. My experiences abroad and involvement in the Sustainable Transportation Program have profoundly shaped my perspective, highlighting the urgent need for environmentally friendly practices in transportation. This has fueled my ambition to integrate sustainable innovations into aeronautics.

Going forward, I'm excited to continue searching opportunities that increase my knowledge and enhance my skills. My goal is to position the aeronautical industry as a leader in sustainability, demonstrating that significant, industry-wide changes are achievable.

In summary, my plan is to keep learning, keep striving, and use my expertise to make a positive impact on both the industry and the environment. Let's work together to make these changes a reality.

Q. Anything else you’d like us to know, Arantxa?

A. Absolutely! Here’s a piece of advice: don’t stop chasing opportunities, no matter how small they seem. Grab every chance you get because you never know where it might lead you. The future’s always a surprise and taking those shots can really change your life for the better.

Also, never underestimate what you’re learning right now. It might not seem relevant to your day-to-day, but trust me, every bit of knowledge you pick up makes you a better person. It’s about more than just textbooks and tests; it's about growing wiser and more capable. So, keep at it, soak up all that knowledge, and use it to make a difference. Let's show the world what we're made of!

ARANTXA ALCALA Arantxa Alcala
Puebla, Mexico
Student of Mechanical Aeronautical Design Engineering
Intern, ITP Aero
Universidad Aeronautica en Querétaro
Querétaro, Mexico
Graduate, UCR University Extension (2023)
Specialized Study Program in Sustainable Transportation Solutions and Community Impacts