To satisfy the field course requirement as a Natural Resource Recreation and Tourism major, I decided to go on the Discover Abroad Hawaii Spring Break trip this year. I used to always think of Hawaii as beautiful sandy beaches and piña coladas. However, our homes for the week in Hilo and Kona were much different. Surprisingly, Hawaii was also full of jagged black rocks and rain! Our goal in Hawaii was not exactly to have a relaxing spring break vacation. Instead, we were tasked to learn, explore, and question our preconceived notions of progress and culture. On each daily journey, I listened, and learned from a new perspective. With every experience, I considered what this meant in terms of progress. Does progress mean that we are constantly creating, changing, and adapting? Or can progress sometimes be embodied in the protection of things the way they are, or were? I saw the protection of the land and native species inside Volcanoes National Park as progress in the way people value nature. Here I learned that while progress is often creation, it can also be preservation.
The biggest issue facing Hawaii now is how the islands can become more sustainable. Hawaii was traditionally very sustainable in its resource allocation and usage but now, they are incredibly dependent on the outside for food and oil. I was also intrigued by the issues Hawaiians are facing in terms of cultural divisions. Renewable energy and sustainability are noble goals that should be worked towards, but the ways in which they are executed must be considerate of all viewpoints. As someone who is typically very science-minded, I learned to consider all sides to changes when it comes to progress. It may seem like progress to build more and more telescopes on the mountain of Mauna Kea to aid in planetary observation and education, but Native Hawaiians’ spiritual ties to Mauna Kea as a sacred site are just as valid. The need for reconciliation between the wants of both groups are things that I never would have considered before this trip. Going to Hawaii has made me more open minded and considerate of the views of people who have completely different cultures than me. It has also made me more willing to try new things (like cliff diving!), even if I’m completely terrified. I hope that with more travel in my future, I will continue to challenge my fears and the way that I think about progress.
Public land, while may not be abundant in my home state of Georgia, is plentiful in the western parts of the United States. I have never had a chance to travel west of the Mississippi to see these lands until the summer of 2016. That summer, I had first position within the U.S. Forest Service as a forestry technician on the Ashley National Forest. Stationed in Dutch John, Utah, I was feet on the ground for the recreation department. Different duties included compliance and acting as a river ranger on the Green River. I then worked this past summer on a timber crew in the Medicine Bow National Forest. Working out of Saratoga, Wyoming, duties included timber marking, cruising for sales, forest health surveys, and beetle kill tree removal. This position was more on the path of my degree, which is forestry. Although very different from my first seasonal job within the agency, I loved every second of last summer. Both of my past seasonal jobs made a huge impact on my life and, eventually, led to a career within the agency that I will follow as I go on to graduate this next fall.
I learned a lot from my last two summers within the agency. The most important life lesson I gained is to learn be comfortable with the uncomfortable. For me, it was travelling 1700 miles across the country to work with people that I have only exchanged a few phone calls and emails with. My first summer on the Ashley, I had no idea what to expect. I went in with certain expectations and they were all shattered within the first week. My colleagues were from all different corners of the country and I was working in a place that looked like it belonged on a different planet. Fast forward three months later, I was a changed man. Through that summer, I gained lifelong friendships with my colleagues, dozens of new skills, and a career path that I will be following for years to come. This personal growth I experienced throughout this position took place because I chose to become comfortable with the uncomfortable. Difficult as it was at times, I continued to strive on. I challenge others to do the same. Whether it is working across the United States or in your own backyard, I encourage you to become comfortable with the uncomfortable. You will not regret it.
When I toured the University of Georgia for the first time, tour guides emphasized the fact that the school provides its students countless opportunities to find their “niche” and develop life-long friendships. This is in spite of the fact that UGA boasts an impressive number of students – 35,000 to be exact! They said that “UGA is a big school with small school feel” and I often heard testimonies from students who felt as though they were members of intimate, close-knit community. I was skeptical about this, but ultimately found it to be true when I entered the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources. I have made some of my best friends at Warnell and I am so grateful to the school for giving me the opportunity to meet so many wonderful people. In many ways, Warnell is similar to high school, where you see many of the same students every day. The difference lies in who those students are and the subject matter at hand. The students who attend Warnell, also known as “Warnellians”, are passionate about natural resources.
(“Sapelo Fight Club”)
Being in the presence of like-minded (with respect to natural resources at least – we’re still unique individuals!), determined young professionals is inspiring and encourages me to do my best work. The school of forestry and natural resources stresses the importance of experiential learning activities, such as outdoor labs or weekend-long field trips. These experiences foster key skills, such as teamwork and communication – once you learn to work with someone in the field, it’s very easy to become friends. One of the first field trips I attended as a student in Warnell was in my Vertebrate and Natural History class. We travelled to Sapelo Island where the class got to partake in so many fun, wildlife-centered activities (mist-netting for songbirds and bats, trapping for small rodents, herping, etc.). The friendships that I made on this trip have lasted for over a year, and I expect them to continue to last for many years to come. Although I don’t have much time left at Warnell, I know that the school will continue to do the same for its future students – I have already started to notice blossoming friendships in the newest cohort of students who have entered the professional program. Warnell, thank you for encapsulating what those tour guides meant when they said “UGA is a big school with small school feel”.
There are many reasons why it is important to be a Warnell Dawg, but I would like to focus on one that I have benefited from the most. I am referring to the imparted and expected ambiance of professionalism. I have never been apart of a program that puts so much emphasis on operating professionally in everything you do. This standard is made known from day one when you meet Dean Greene and other faculty at your professional program orientation. Like many colleges here on the University Campus, Warnell offers professional development classes to improve your resume, interviewing, and networking skills, but they take it much further than that. While at Warnell you will be given countless opportunities to play an active role as a student representative on committees such as: club officers, school ambassadors, scholarship panels, alumni councils, and much more. Often times these positions involve actively providing input or voting on decisions made at the school. Furthermore, Warnell provides the opportunity to learn from and network with world-renowned professors from all aspects of the natural resources community. The relationship that one is able to create with these professionals is invaluable. Professors and staff genuinely care about student concerns and questions. They take the time to invest in the students’ futures. By doing this, the school creates an interface with real-world expectations and analytically driven studies. As I alluded to previously, Warnell also puts stock into professional networking. Every semester there are numerous social events, seminars, and meetings that allow the students to create exchanges with natural resource companies, visiting professors, alumni, and more. Specifically, students are given the opportunity to interview, and often times get hired, with industry leading businesses and research organizations. The list of opportunities for professional development goes much further than this. While Warnell does provide a tier one list of opportunities for students, they stress the importance of student initiative to seize these opportunities. Students are encouraged and given the skills to work hard for their goals, but they are also allowed to be as active or passive as they desire in developing themselves professionally. Whatever approach one chooses, they will continue to receive persistent encouragement from their peers and professors. This expectation drives students to push themselves both in their academic and professional lives.
In closing, I would like to show my gratitude to all that Warnell has and continues to offer me. It is important to be a Warnell Dawg for many reasons, but the biggest, even bigger than professional development, is the ability to join a legacy of faculty, staff, and alumni who set the stand rather that meet the standard. Ones’ time on campus is a small chapter in their life as a Warnell Dawg, and the story only gets better as it goes.
Walking around UGA’s campus you’re sure to overhear numerous conversations from students complaining about their boring classes, mean professors, and having classes without any friends. When you start to walk towards Warnell, however, the conversations tend to change quite drastically. You’ll hear students excitedly sharing the amazing things they saw in the woods during lab, laughing about the inside jokes they share with their professors, or making plans with their fellow classmates to go hiking over the weekend. Of course, this doesn’t mean that Warnell is better than any other school, but it does provide a unique learning environment that creates a close-knit community of students and faculty; one that you wouldn’t find anywhere else.
I can confidently say that being a Warnell student has changed my life in ways that I’m sure no other school could. It blows my mind every day to think of the countless opportunities the school provides for its students, including networking with professionals and alumni, outdoor labs with expensive equipment, weekend long field trips, study abroad, and so much more. These opportunities are more than enough to create successful students, but what makes Warnell really standout is the attitude of everyone you meet in the school. It is extremely rare to walk through the halls of Warnell without someone smiling at you, saying hello, or stopping to talk with you about anything and everything. The faculty and staff make sure you have everything you need to succeed, the professors will go out of their way to make sure you are understanding the material and get plenty of field experience, and the students are willing to share their knowledge and ideas, no matter your background.
I am very lucky to have been a part of this top-notch community and I would recommend it anyone looking to pursue a career in natural resources without any hesitation what-so-ever. Of course, if you don’t believe me try asking anyone you meet while visiting Warnell.
Throughout my time in Warnell, I have had countless unforgettable experiences. From field trips, to friendships, I could not be happier with my time here, but if I had to choose my favorite memory, it would be my study abroad trip to Australia and New Zealand.
For as long as I can remember, it had been my dream to go to Australia, so when I was presented with this opportunity, I knew I couldn’t turn it down. I had never thought about going to New Zealand, but if that was a part of the trip I was not going to complain!
Going into the trip, I was definitely more excited for Australia, but once we got to New Zealand, I was struck by how beautiful it was. There were beautiful, clear oceans surrounded by mountains in front of a cloudless sky. Pictures cannot adequately capture the beauty of the New Zealand scenery. I don’t think there is anywhere more beautiful.
There was wildlife everywhere. We snorkeled with dusky dolphins over the Pacific Trench, observed baby fur seals play near a waterfall, learned about how important sheep are to the country, and of course, were always followed around by flightless birds. I was able to learn so much about animal behavior and how to go about studying and observing wildlife. I also went bungee jumping at the second tallest bungee site in the world. I did so many things that I never even imagined before I went there, and could never forget those experiences.
Australia was everything I ever imagined it would be. We hiked to the top of a gorge, lounged with kangaroos and wallabies, and went scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef. My experience at the Great Barrier Reef was my favorite part of the trip. We did sunrise scuba dives every morning and swam with loggerhead sea turtles, manta rays, and even tiger sharks. We did coral walks at low tide and saw a multitude of starfish, sea cucumbers, and mollusks. We spent all our time in the water and were able to see everything we were learning about in class.
I learned so much while having the best and most fulfilling five weeks of my life. I am so grateful for Dr. Maerz for taking us and teaching us about the various ecosystem ecologies. I will never forget this trip, and I tell anyone who asks me for a travel recommendation to go to Australia and New Zealand. The people are amazing, the weather is perfect, and the experiences are absolutely unforgettable.
As I began searching for colleges as a junior in high school, my teachers and family members always encouraged me to find a school that would allow me ample opportunity to study abroad- my mom had gone to Europe in college, my dad to Japan, and my favorite and most influential high school teacher spent a semester in Spain. After committing to UGA and as a freshman that was adjusting to college, I did not think about their recommendations and was a little bit uneasy about the prospect of leaving the country. I had never been that far from home and had only been on an airplane for thirty minutes in my entire life. However, becoming more involved with Warnell as a sophomore made me more excited about the idea of studying abroad. The first semester of my sophomore year I attended a Warnell pre-vet club meeting where students gave presentations about different trips that they had been on, and when I got back to my dorm that night I began to do research. That spring break, I traveled to Nicaragua with an organization called VIDA volunteer and ran free spay and neuter clinics with vets from across the world. Although I was only gone for 9 days, my trip changed my outlook on life. Being in Nicaragua made me realize the incredibly small piece of the world that I had lived in for my entire life, and being a part of a brand new culture was the most incredible feeling to me. I loved getting to experience the way that people in another country love their animals the same way that we do in the US, a commonality that I found to be very comforting. I also gained new perspective on what veterinary medicine looks like in the US compared to countries with less widely available medical resources. When I got home, I was already looking for reasons to leave again. When the opportunity to apply to go to South Africa with Warnell came up, I took it immediately, and this May I will be travelling to South Africa and Botswana for an international wildlife conservation class. I am excited to once again experience a new country and new culture, as well as be exposed to animals that I will never get to see in the wild here in the United States. I will always be thankful to my mentors for pushing me out of my comfort zone for the first time and I truly believe that studying abroad is one of the most important, life changing experiences that a student can pursue as a part of their education. My best piece of advice: if the opportunity arises, take it and do not let anything hold you back. UGA offers a variety of financial resources for students wishing to study abroad, and there are many people here in Warnell that would love to walk you every step of the way toward the greatest experience of your life.