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The last frontier

Rachael

RACHAEL

Major: Environmental Studies
Hometown: Maui, HI

Year: Senior

I opened my eyes and sat up in my seat. Then, remembering where I was, I quickly pulled up my window shade and caught my breath as I took in the view from my little airplane window. An enormous expanse of mountains, ocean, trees, mud flats, pink and golden clouds…I could hardly contain my amazement at the beauty I was seeing. I pressed my face closer to the tiny window, trying to better view my first glimpse of Alaska.

This past summer I completed my Environmental Studies Internship and Senior Seminar project in a little fishing town called Cordova in southwest Alaska. The geography of Alaska was unlike anything I had ever experienced. Growing up on Maui, I was more used to a smaller scale of landscape, and in comparison everything about Alaska was huge!

My internship involved working with the education department at the Prince William Sound Science Center (PWSSC). It was an ideal internship because it combined several of my passions: the outdoors, working with kids, and exploring a new place. Most of what I did involved helping to lead summer camps which taught kids about the natural environment of Cordova. While learning about the local flora, we hiked through wet muskegs, up beautiful mountains, and by salmon streams. We explored glaciers, tidal zones, the Copper River Delta, and the various animal species in each location. We learned how to make an insect sting salve, harvested wild salmon berries, and created herring, halibut, and salmon fish prints.

This diverse internship allowed me to experience what a future in my Environmental Studies field might entail. While I was initially a bit hesitant about having to complete an internship, I think that it was one of the most valuable requirements within my degree. It gave me the opportunity to see how what I have learned at school relates to the world outside of the college classroom.

While in Cordova, I was also able to complete my Senior Seminar. This was an extensive literature review that explored how Christianity relates to the natural environment. This research offered an uncommon perspective on why people might seek to care for nature. My faculty advisor for this project helped me enormously, providing useful and encouraging feedback. It also turned out that she happened to be in Cordova during the same time that I was! We were able to meet up in this little fishing town and discuss the work that I had begun months before in her office back in Colorado. I am very grateful for the energy, commitment, and sacrifice that this professor gave me in mentoring my senior project.

Overall, my journey to Alaska this summer was full of adventures, academic work, hands-on learning, kind people and experiences that have greatly complimented my college experience.

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