Americans in Switzerland: Meet Gilman Scholar Ira Long

Ira and his classmates study climate change.

Ira came to Switzerland as a recipient of the Gilman Scholarship, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.  We caught up with him to learn more about his experience here and with the program.

Ira is a junior at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, VA, majoring in political science.  In his first trip outside the U.S,. he ventured to the Steger Center for International Scholarship in Ticino to learn about resource sustainability and more specifically, how to manage water more sustainably.

Long concerned about climate change, Ira read an article about water insecurity in 2015 while going to school part-time at a local community college.  The anticipated water shortages in certain parts of the world by 2030 sparked a passion to prevent and mitigate the human cost.  That passion led him to Switzerland to delve deeper into water policy.

If there’s one thing Ira could bring back to the U.S. from Switzerland, “it would be the train system.  You don’t need a car here, unlike in Virginia where I’m from.  And if there’s one thing I would bring to Switzerland from the U.S. it would be storm drains to prevent rain runoff from going into rivers.”  He also appreciated Switzerland’s cultural diversity, how each town can be so different from others just a few miles away.

When he completes his studies here, Ira will build on his experience by participating in the Washington Semester program.  He will intern at a non-governmental organization and polish his advocacy skills.

Ira enjoys breathtaking views while hiking in Ticino.

The Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program provides need-based scholarships for undergraduate students to study abroad, internationalizing their outlook and preparing them to thrive in the global economy.  For more information, see the Gilman Scholarship’s website here.