Wyoming Concluded: A Letter to My Former Self

Hey girl hey – it’s me! Your future self! And guess what: right now you may be stuck in your hometown, working a retail job and worrying if you picked the right study away opportunity, but I’m here to tell you that you’re in for the summer of a lifetime.

After you pack your bags and fly out to Denver (on 3 separate connecting flights that are way too early in the morning), you’ll be full of both excitement and trepidation for the 6 weeks ahead. You want to make the best of things, and you really like your fellow classmates, but during that first week, you’ll be wondering if you made a terrible mistake. Wyoming seems empty and beige and annoyingly windy, and you spend the first field day getting eaten alive by mosquitoes through your long-sleeved shirt and wool socks. You’ll wonder if maybe you aren’t cut out for this, and whether this program was the right academic fit for you. You’ll think: “Oh god, we still have over a month to go.” And then, everything will change.

In just a few more days, you’ll adapt and get used to this new rhythm of living. Your legs and lungs will grow stronger, you’ll form a deep attachment to your silly little field notebook, and you’ll realize you never fully grew out of that dinosaur phase as a kid. Finding fossils and eating rocks may not be what your future career entails, but you’re sure as hell glad that you get to do it now. Quickly, Wyoming will unravel its true beauty in front of your awestruck eyes. You’ll see (and climb!) towering mountains, you’ll swim in alpine lakes, you’ll wander through pine forests and fields of wildflowers, and you’ll encounter all kinds of wildlife. You’ll see the stars like never before: scattered through the Milky Way and dancing around planets, reminding you how small you are and how lucky you are to be alive, and here. This rustic landscape and the charming town of Laramie won’t just grow on you – you’ll fall in love with it.

View from the summit of Medicine Bow Peak in the Snowy Range Mountains (my favorite place in Wyoming!)

And most importantly, you get to experience these wonders alongside a group of hilariously fun and kind people. I want to take a moment to thank everyone who went on this trip with me for making it such a great experience and for helping me to grow. I truly enjoyed getting to know each and every one of you, and I’ll cherish the memories we made forever. I also want to thank my instructors, who I learned so much from and who gave their all to drive us around, feed us, lead our adventures, and create a dynamic and exciting schedule for us to enjoy.

As I return to Pittsburgh this fall, I may not be able to take Wyoming with me, but I will be able to take my newfound friends and all the lessons I learned. I’m stronger now, physically and mentally. I know how to overcome challenges, accept discomfort and non-closure, develop projects – and how to set up a Daubenmire frame. I’ve experienced the benefits of leaving my comfort zone and taking risks. Overall, I feel better prepared for the rest of my college experience and my future career, and I’m so thankful that I had this opportunity. But back to my former self:

You don’t know it yet, but your mind is about to be blown! By geologic time, by the universe, by Mother Nature. You’re going to be so sad when this trip is over, but in the meantime, you’re going to thrive in Wyoming. I’m proud of you!

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