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Puerto Rico 2019 Highlights from Rajeev Atha

Rajeev Atha is a Master of Architecture student who joined Acara in the first course trip to Puerto Rico with the Global Convergence Lab. His experience in Puerto Rico has shaped how he thinks about his courses and career, and he shares some of his experiences in the hope of inspiring other students to join us in Puerto Rico in January 2020.

What most surprised you about your experience in Puerto Rico?

I was amazed by the passion of Puerto Ricans, and their belief that they could change their country. The thoughts, mindsets, and ideas that the people of Puerto Rico have are based in the future. They are certain of what they want as a community, along with a game plan of how they are going to achieve their aspirations. The contributions and sacrifices that Puerto Ricans make on a daily basis for the betterment of the country is astounding. They strive for innovative technologies such as micro-grids and also think about keeping the ecological aspect of the environment balanced as they implement this new technology. 

UMN STUDENTS LEARNING ABOUT WATER RUN-OFF, FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: GARRETT BURNHAM, RAJEEV ATHA, CARLIE DEROUIN

Are there things you learned in Puerto Rico that you now incorporate into your academic, professional, or personal life?

As an architect/architecture student, I didn’t realize the influence of architecture (physical forms) on the social, economic and political aspects of the society. Puerto Rico was an eye opening experience for me. It expanded my horizons, and has given me an approach towards sensitivity in architecture. 

After Puerto Rico, I decided to take classes such as Arts, Culture and Leadership along with Public Affairs. I discovered a new side of factors that drive architecture. The major change of perspective I gained was asking myself, “Who am I designing for? What are their roots? Where do they feel comfortable the most? What are their actual needs?” I was enlightened by the idea of asking questions of the people and communities, rather than giving them a generic enforced solution. I noticed elements that emerge from the grassroots have a stronger ripple effect, that we need to perceive the communities we work in through the lens of a non expert and give them a voice. 

 

What types of students would you encourage to go on this trip?

I would recommend this trip for every type of student who is driven to bring change in the society and environment we live in. Puerto Rico is a stage for interdisciplinary research, and I’m sure that there would be something for each student that participates in this course. From my experience, since there were students from STEP, public health, civil engineering, architecture and education, I got to experience my research project from different perspectives. This has opened my eyes and changed how I approach my work. 

 

ANAIS ROQUE, PHD CANDIDATE AT ASU, WITH RAJEEV ATHA

What was your favorite food you ate in Puerto Rico?

My favorite delicacy I’ve been craving since coming back is amarillos! The caramelization of plantains served fresh is the best dessert dish and I would recommend it to everyone visiting Puerto Rico.

 

When someone says Puerto Rico, what do you think of? 

When someone says Puerto Rico, it reminds me of Three Kings Day, which fell on my birthday last year. We celebrated as a whole cohort at instructors Marla and Cecilio’s house.This event gave me the experience of living like a Puerto Rican for a day with all the festivities, getting to know their family, and bonding within our cohort.

 

Would you like to learn more about PA 5790 : Convergence Lab – Puerto Rico: Energy, Justice and Community Resilience? Apply by November 1st to join the January 2020 trip.

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