My summer field experience was a remarkable experience all around. Taking a trip to the Boundary Waters of northern Minnesota will have resounding effects on my life over the years. In such an astounding location, it is no wonder that the experience has made a lasting impression. The Boundary Water Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) is a rare look into undisturbed natural life and an escape from all the realities of normal life. In summation, my summer experience has changed the way I think in regards to myself personally, the communities and society I live in, and what I want to spend my life accomplishing.
My experience altered the perception I have of myself. I now believe that I can be a responsible and decisive leader. My summer experience, working in tandem with my Field Experience Grant, was led and organized by me. While I must acknowledge all of the people in the LAPC center for their help, it was me who made this trip happen. College has been a large lesson in growing up; being an individual, advocating for yourself, and taking responsibility for your actions or inactions are big parts of living on your own for the first time. This summer experience I feel accelerated that and made me realize I was truly capable of succeeding in this capacity. Being able to manage my own due dates was a responsibility I undertook, coordinating the route with our rental gear was a thing that I did, and leading our small expedition into the wilderness was an accomplishment I achieved. While some of this comes from the process, a large portion of this understanding comes from the experience itself. While in the BWCAW, I was the leader, I gave orders and directions, and I managed what we should or shouldn’t do. I may have been in the BWCAW with three of my closest friends, but a clear power structure existed that was unique to the situation. At the end of the trip, I found that I had successfully led the trip, in all of the roles and nuances needed.
In addition to changing my perspective on myself, my experience changed my view on the communities and society I participate in. I have always enjoyed nature and outdoor activities, but my experience helped me realized that my association goes beyond enjoyment. I have a respect for nature now that makes me want to preserve it as much as possible. The society we live in is so different from the way that things naturally occur that I am now fully committed to keeping what little untouched areas we have left safe. Our society as a whole needs to be more conscious of what impact we have on the environment. This led me to a new awareness of what communities I want to be a part of. My new focus of preserving and protecting nature directs to participate in communities that respect the environment, or even help clean it up. I think that this will manifest itself in my participation in clubs, volunteering, or cleanup events. After my summer experience, I have a respect for nature that I hadn’t realized before.
The last thing my summer experience changed was what I want to do in the future. Being in such a beautiful environment and still being scientifically focused impacted my professional goals significantly. Instead of working as some sort of engineer, I am going to focus on developing into a field where I can analyze real data. Hopefully, I will even get to participate in the collection of said data as I did in this project. Also importantly, I want to orient my work towards having a postive environmental impact. While this study was not as environmentally focused, I think that a future in environmental studies, achieved through a normal biochemical background and post-undergrad schooling, is where I want to direct my life. This is something that matters to me and that I can see myself doing as a career. This is something that is very important to have figured out, and I am extremely grateful to have some direction after my experience.
Another important tenet of my experience is taking it and using it to propel myself in the near future. I think that my experience has given me very good professional experience as well as given me something to set me apart from other students of my level. I am very grateful for this and think that, used properly, I will be able to advance myself beyond where I would otherwise be. My primary goal is to obtain a research for undergraduates experience (REU) this summer.However, there are several smaller steps that I can take to help me reach this goal. I plan on making a competitive resume, applying to different REUs, practicing how to interview, and, if I cannot get an REU, I will look other places for chemistry related internships.
The first step in my plan is to build a competitive resume. Thankfully, I am already underway in this endeavor. I am enrolled in the course, “Professional Tools in Chemistry” that is helpful in advancing my understanding of what takes to be in a professional setting. I have already built a resume for this class, and had the opportunity to get it edited by my peers and by seniors who have already gone through this. The next step involves taking the resume to my advisor and LAPC, in order to get more oneonone help with what I should do to make my resume better. I can hopefully learn how to structure it professionally and get tips on what to include or what to exclude. My summer experience has taught me the value of reaching out for help on professional documents and taking advantage of resources that are available to me. I also know that LAPC is a great place to go with questions of this nature.
The next step is to apply to different REUs. My advisor recommended searching for REUs on the National Science Foundation website. They have a fantastic list of links to college provided REUs that are open to applicants like me. I think that getting an REU is an important step in the development of my professional career and a necessity before graduating college. If I can secure an REU this summer it will be a major step forward for me. Hopefully applying for an REU is similar to preparing a project proposal for the Summer Field Experience Grant. It is my goal to supply my summer experience as a key point for why potential employers should hire me. I think that it can go far way in this regard due to the uniqueness of the experience and program. Applying for an REU seems like a long process, but I will have practiced it in my Professional Tools course. Altogether, this is the most important step towards an REU.
Learning how to interview well is another thing that can set me apart from other candidates. Regardless of whether or not an REU will ask for an interview, it is a professional skill I must have. Speaking with students who have experience, speaking with my advisor, or practicing with LAPC are all very good ways to learn this skill. Again, I believe that my summer experience has provided me with a very strong and unique talking point. While I did not have to interview for the summer Field Experience Grant, I was able to talk professionally with many people, both within Beloit and in the larger world. Speaking with professional guides about the BWCAW in planning a route is just one example of business oriented conversations I had in preparation for my experience.
Lastly, if I really cannot get an REU, I will find another professional internship that can advance my career. Beloit offers a very good summer research program that is available to biochemistry students. If nothing else, a Beloit internship will help me have a very competitive resume to get an REU the following summer. Aside from Beloit, there are internships at medical companies as well as hospitals that will look great on a resume. I learned in my Professional Tools course that the American Chemical Society is a good resource for finding potential internship employers. While an REU would be a fun and fantastic experience, another internship would not be disappointing.
Over the course of this program and the Summer Field Research Grant, I have learned several things that I think are important for any future students to be aware of. The summer experience is a very good tool for teaching real world lessons to otherwise unexposed young students. After completing the course and experience, I feel astoundingly more competent with dealings in the professional world and overall more prepared for my future. However, there are some things that incoming students need to know when embarking that will help them immensely. The most important things for students to know is that they should reach out to professionals for help, take the initiative, and be on time. That said, I have some advice for the student about to take this course.
First of all, reaching out to professionals is always a good idea and can never hurt. It can be as simple as asking for help. Most people are more than willing to lend a hand or point in the right direction. This especially applies for people working at the college. The people surrounding you on campus are an immense resource that won’t always be there. These people are hired to help you succeed. On top of being free and easily accessible, the professionals around Beloit have helped hundreds of students in similar positions as you. I cannot stress what a unique opportunity this is. Once you graduate, you will have a situation like this again. Take advantage of it while you can. Transitioning into the larger world, I still strongly recommend reaching out for help. I spoke with multiple professional guides for the BWCAW in order to come up with a manageable and fun route for my trip. Each one was willing to help and more than willing to give me their opinion on the best route to take. These people had a wealth of knowledge that I could never have found online. Because of their assurances, I felt that I had found a route that was safe enough to travel. Even if the matter isn’t as important as picking a survivable path through the wilderness, I still recommend always asking.
Next, you need to take the initiative. While a lot of this ties into being proactive and asking for professional help, it also has a lot to do with being responsible and prepared. This is a largely selfdirected program, and if you double it with the Summer Field Experience Grant like I did, there are near limitless ideas that you can pursue. Taking the initiative to put in some work before meeting a counselor will make the meeting with the counselor go a lot better. It shows that you are interested, that you care, and that you value this person’s time. These three things alone are hugely important and will take you far in life. Similarly, being responsible with your due dates and responsibilities are an important skill to have. This summer program has a generous policy of forgiveness that won’t be there in the real world. Don’t test your safety net, because it won’t always be there. In the end, this course will teach you to be responsible and prepared, but it will go a lot better for you if you come in already conscious of this initiative.
Lastly, I would recommend that you be on time. Just be on time. Don’t miss any appointments, don’t ask to reschedule last minute, and don’t be late. None of these things will make anyone like you, and if the people who can help you like you, they will be more likely to go out of their way for you. Being on time is a simple thing that will always start you on the right foot. In a way, it is the summation of my previous points. It shows you are responsible, that you take the initiative to get somewhere, and that you are ready to ask for help. I would love to say that I knew this before beginning the program, and if I did, this program has done nothing but reinforce it. If you are late, or miss an appointment, or ask to reschedule last minute, the only advice I can give is work hard to make it up to them. No matter who it is, the next time you had better be ready and prepared.