The work part
It’s cliché to say (and it’s cliché to say “it’s cliché to say”), but these ten weeks really have flown by. Looking back, it’s as if the first week and a half flowed like molasses, and then the rest of the summer got dropped into a time warp that spit me out here on the second to last day of my time at Hatfield. I have to honestly say that this internship did not always follow my expectations, however it did not disappoint. First off, I expected to be interning with the US EPA, but due to issues with technicalities I ended up being taken in on a USDA project. I expected to be working in an office and finally getting some wear out of the ‘business-casual’ clothes I bought in high school. I ended up wearing t-shirts and working in a lab with eelgrass samples still caked in mud. I did not expect I’d get to go on multiple fieldwork trips to Washington and I definitely did not expect to experience a month-long power outage of a federal building. However, these are all details, and while we can form predictions of how we think such details will play out, I’ve learned that things never are completely how you expect them. My expectations of the internship that were met include the experience I gained in estuarine ecosystems, affirmation of my love for marine science and field work, and the initiation of a professional social network. I was able to present my research to experienced scientists, attend two graduate student thesis defenses, and form many friendships with young scientists like myself. Working at the Hatfield Marine Science Center has been a great experience to participate in research and learn about some of the many other research projects going on in the Pacific Northwest.
The play part
I’d like to revisit the tourist in my own life concept that I discussed in my first blog post. I said Newport, OR was very different from Los Angeles and Maryland, however, I now would also like to say I’ve had the most American summer of my life here. I spent the 4th of July on the beach, had a BBQ, and watched fireworks over a river. I’ve floated in rivers and waded in creeks, gone camping and hiking many times. I watched monster trucks at a county fair and worked in the realm of agriculture (USDA). Did I mention we’ve been living in wood cabins all summer? I felt so out of my element my first day here, and I felt so at home by the end. I have always valued living in a new place for extended periods of time over traveling to many places for a week or so because you really get to experience the place rather than visit it, and I feel this experience has definitely accomplished that goal. I got to not only visit Oregon, but become a part of it for a while. I went to a local “beer and dogs” festival at a brewery, cheered on fellow interns and REUs at a state volleyball tournament, and became a regular at Fred-Myer.
I think the most rewarding part about making yourself a tourist in your own life is overcoming the tourism. It’s conquering the fears of being on your own in a new place with new people, and turning those strange places and strange people into home. At the beginning of summer, I asked myself “why do I keep putting myself in these new and uncomfortable positions?” and this summer has truly reminded me of the joy that can come out of those challenges.
The feels part
One thing that really made a difference to my overall quality of life this summer was the amazing group of students and interns that I have had the pleasure of living with. Having a group of adventurous, passionate, and intelligent people to see every day after work and explore Oregon with has been an extremely valuable part of this experience. It’s a little weird being back to Los Angeles where topics of daily discussion don’t include bomb calorimetry and marine reserves, and beach volleyball is not the dinnertime entertainment. Where it may not be as casual to discuss climate change as it is to discuss the latest Calvin Harris album. Every person I have befriended here is not only bright but driven. I consider myself not to be an easily inspired person (it takes more than a documentary or article), but the REU’s and Sea Grant scholars I met this summer really do inspire me to be a scientist even when we are not always listened to, to stay passionate and engaged about the state of our environment and country, and to stay open to meeting new people even though it may be challenging at first.
Thank you to Sea Grant and my mentor for the internship and thank you to all the friends I made along the way for making it unforgettable.