After you return back to normal life in West Virginia post-Wyoming, you’ll look fondly on your adventures out west. I know you don’t have too many expectations going into it, but just know this field study was honestly a perfect balance of academic and personal growth surrounded by individuals passionate about the same thing you are, which is bettering the Earth.
The first couple of weeks involved adjusting to the Laramie culture and walking around the rather barren Spring Creek Reserve. Here, I was able to try out various sampling methods with scientific equipment that are often used in the field, as well as use all five senses (mmm the “chocolate shale”) to learn about the geological explanation of the rocks around me came to be. As time went on, the class was able to explore more of the local sights, such as the straight-out-of-a-movie Snowy Range, multi-colored Alcova Reservoir, and Vedauwoos’s amazing granite rocks. I am still amazed at the fact you’re able to get six-course credits while you get to spend a decent chunk of the day laying in a hammock with some of the most breathtaking views as your background. Then, the moment you’ve been waiting for, we all hopped in vans to travel around Wyoming to see Independence Rock, the Shoshone National Forest, the Big Horn Basin, Yellowstone, the Grand Tetons, and many other sights along the way that don’t compare to anything on the east coast. I’m not going to spoil too much about those two weeks, you just have to and will see it for yourself.
Academically, I am now much more well-versed in paleontology, archaeology, and geology. In the classroom, I’ve only had experience with PowerPoints and lectures, but now I have firsthand seen radon-filled dinosaur bones, busy dig sites, different plant species, and crazy outcrops. On a personal level, I saw myself learn to be uncomfortable with non-closure and know that it’s okay to go out of my comfort zone, especially physicality-wise. I remember initially being fearful I wouldn’t click with the people on the field study, but I absolutely loved the fourteen students I was surrounded with 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and even plan to make an effort to hang out with them outside of our outdoor classroom. On the professional side of things, I am much more interested in a hands-on job in the environmental field because I acquired a lot of the skills taught using different sampling methods and got to work alongside my incredibly smart peers to come up with solutions.
In the future, I am almost certain that you will be much less scared to step outside of your comfort zone because I know if you make the most of the situation, it will most likely be astronomically beneficial to your personal growth. Remember to take a step back to reflect on the little moments, like storytelling with almost strangers, tossing around the hackeysack, and stargazing at such an open sky. The six weeks will fly by fast, but I guess that’s because you’re having fun!
I wish you the best of luck,
Your older self <3