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.
Over Christmas break, my family took a once in a lifetime vacation to Costa Rica. During one of our last days in Puerto Jimenez, we took a chocolate tour with a guy named Mr. Herman. He had owned this property since 1985. Throughout the tour we had a guide giving us all of the history and cool facts of a Costa Rican rainforest, but this Kapok tree was the most magnificent. Mr. Herman said he used to lead his cows through the giant hole in this tree, which is now shown in white. The reason for this was that it was diseased. He was offered $200 for it, but turned it down because he knew he had a better plan for it. He used a concoction his grandma used to use, calcium salt and ash. Soon after treating the tree with this, it began to heal and is now a beautiful landmark for tourists to come and see. Since 1985, the hole is now the size of a human fist, and even though people still offer him money to cut it down and use commercially, he believes it serves a better purpose of enjoyment for the people that come and visit his farm.
For the past 2½ years, Warnell has been my home away from home; a place where I felt truly comfortable to be myself. While Warnell holds some of the best memories of my college career, I didn’t realize until now, one month from my graduation, how important what we’ve learned truly is. As our days at Warnell come to an end, we are charged with entering a society that has little education about natural resources. Warnell is one of the smallest colleges on campus, but the impact we make when we leave is one of the largest. In this society that we live in today, we focus so much on money and materialistic value. But what we Warnellians have learned is that the sustainability of our resources for the enjoyment of our families is so much more important than those material items. So many people have lost sight of the value of the outdoors, and therefore are failing to instill that appreciation into their children. This downward spiral will be the death of our natural resources if we as professionals do not strive to combat it. As author Richard Louv said, “Passion is lifted from the earth itself by the muddy hands of the young; it travels along grass-stained sleeves to the heart. If we are going to save environmentalism and the environment, we must also save an endangered indicator species: the child in nature.” Because we chose this field, we must try our hardest to convey the importance of natural resources to the public, so that they will, in turn, convey it to their children. If we can make this connection for them, we could combat the constant degradation of the resources that we desperately need. In saying all of this, how lucky are we that we have a home like Warnell that instills these values in our hearts? As I prepare to jump out of the nest and venture into the world, I will take with me everything that I’ve been taught while at Warnell. I implore all of you to do the same.
Glacier National Park was my home for 67 days. I slept, ate, hiked, and worked in Northern Montana for these two months, which became some of the best days of my life thus far. I woke up early each day, slipped into my National Park Service uniform, adjusted my flat hat, put on my hiking boots, and headed off to my office – St. Mary Campground. I greeted cheery campers, discussed bear safety, patrolled the campground, and gave hiking suggestions. When my 8-hour day was done, my friends and I would explore our remarkable home. With longer days in this northern region, it was easy to work a full day and hike ten miles afterwards, still making it home for a full night’s sleep. I watched bear cubs tussle with their mom, shooed mountain goats away from my tent, sang to unseen bears on trails, woke up sorer than ever before, and experienced the purest wilderness.
Thinking back on these 67 days, it is sometimes hard to believe they happened. In the grand scheme of life, two months is a miniscule ripple on the timeline of experiences ahead. Often, I think back fondly on my summer, but sometimes I gloomily reminisce because college life does not compare, and I am simply not in Montana anymore. While there were periods where I deeply missed those back home, I immediately wanted to be back in Montana when I returned to Georgia. I could not fathom the thought of resuming college after what I had experienced in the American West. The life I spent there was transformative in unexplainable ways and I was not sure how I was going to fit that into my life at the University of Georgia. Working at Glacier seemed like the beginning, so the thought of two more years of college terrified me. In short, I lost much motivation in my return and felt quite lost. Despite this, I began to remember the purpose of my college education as the semester unfolded.
What I have ultimately realized is that the beginning of my adventures has already begun. My education in Warnell is the gateway to more opportunities as I gain knowledge about managing natural resources. It can be easy to get lost dreaming about the future. It can also be easy to lose sight of your purpose amidst the whirlwind of college life, but I find confidence in my education and the path I am forging as I look forward to my next great adventure.
Some people grow up hoping they can have the opportunity to make their hobby a career. Unfortunately, many do not get the chance but not this Warnellian. My love for being outdoors exploring, discovering, and being among the wildlife has flourished since being accepted to Warnell. First years of school at UGA were tough for me academically and financially. My confidence in being successful at school come back to me after being accepted to Warnell and taking my first class- Field Measurements. In this class we learned one of the most important tasks, in my opinion, about being in the wilderness and that was how to navigate. With this class, I was able to get comfortable with getting lost and finding my way back to the starting point and I looked at life in the same manner ever since. Being Pre-Vet and having to take tough sciences along with my other classes always began to discourage me with school, yet when I started to take classes within Warnell I gained more confidence in that area as well. Receiving the Young Alumni award, I was given the chance to attend a conference or seminar to expand my knowledge and make connections andI was truly grateful for that. The faculty and students in the school are very welcoming and willing to go on weird adventures into the woods at any moment. The school as a whole is designed for the students to succeed and go out into the career force and/or to future education and make a difference in the environment. I was able to find a new passion in wildlife infectious diseases and hope to make that a career one day. I am very appreciative for all the individuals that have helped and guided me within Warnell and have my best interest at heart. I love being a Warnell Dawg and I will continue to cherish all the moments I have had far into the future!