Some of the best advice I have ever received is as follows: Take every possible opportunity to travel, network, volunteer, learn, etc. that you can as an undergrad. It will expand your horizons indefinitely, make you a more effective natural resource conservationist, and ultimately make you a better person. Every new door, when approached with a willingness to work hard and learn, will subsequently open another. You will end up learning more about yourself than anyone else could ever tell you, and you may discover that your true passions differ from what you initially thought.
When I first entered Warnell, I envisioned myself graduating as soon as possible and pursuing a field biologist job with Georgia DNR. I thought I would stay in Georgia for the rest of my life as I progressed through a career in forestry and wildlife; at the very least I thought I would stay in the southeast. I was perfectly happy here, and really did not understand why anyone would want to live anywhere else.
In stark contrast to my original plans, I spent the summer working for Colorado Parks & Wildlife, am planning to attend graduate school at Colorado State University and am ultimately working towards a wildlife research career in the Western US. However, I would likely have very different plans if I had not gotten involved in the ways I did. For example, being involved in the Wildlife Society led me to experience New Mexico, Louisiana, and Ohio for the first time. My boss in Colorado was heavily involved with TWS while he was in school, and that was one thing we discussed when I was interviewed. Working at the Deer Barn paved my path to Colorado, as it was through the deer barn that I first experienced Colorado. Optional Study Abroad and Maymester classes created some of the best friendships I have.
No one looks back on their formative college years and thinks “I wish I had been less involved, networked with fewer people, learned fewer things, and visited fewer places.” I’m not promising that you will experience an extreme change of your life plans like I did. But I do guarantee that the best way to pursue your truest passions is to have as many options as possible, and those that are highly involved, willing to learn, and openminded have the greatest number of options.