By Kate Roberts
B.S. Earth Systems, 2017
Resilient Landscapes Intern at the San Francisco Estuary Institute
In terms of academics and career, I can fully say that I’ve learned so much more than I could have imagined at the beginning of the summer. In my learning plan, I wrote that I wanted to do different things than what I’d studied in class, and I most definitely have. From learning how to skim captain’s journals from the 1890s (cursive back then was crazy, let me tell ya), to creating graphics for sediment placement plans, to interviewing businesses over the phone on their experience with native landscaping, to writing introductory paragraphs for reports, to teaching myself GIS, I branched out in so many ways than I had before. This was due in huge part to the incredible people I worked with this summer.
Even though I had almost no experience with the tools and techniques I’d be using on several of these projects, my coworkers had an incredible amount of trust in my ability, and this allowed me to try so many new things. They gave me a ton of freedom in shaping the direction of these projects, and that seemed pretty rare to me. Their kindness and accessibility gave me the confidence to speak my mind, try new ideas, and really explore the projects that I was enjoying. These people worked long hours to meet project deadlines, planned extensively to meet budgets, and are extremely passionate about the work that they do. If I had worked with another set of individuals, I might have had a less exciting and less beneficial summer. There were several stages in projects I worked on where they could have been handed off to a more experienced person, but they allowed me to experiment with the data and material on my own. This definitely pushed me to grow a lot and think beyond what I already knew.
Coming into this summer, I really didn’t know what types of projects I would be working on. I could not have imagined the vast number of different types of projects that are worked on at SFEI. It completely opened my eyes to all the possibilities that exist in these types of organizations. From water quality to historical ecology to human health to climate change, I witnessed a seemingly endless number of combinations, making each project unique. It also made me realize that I can be happy working on many different kinds of projects. I saw how possible it is to create a niche for yourself in this work environment, how you can find projects that really interest you in all types of programs and subjects.
Most importantly, I’ve realized just how much of a role the people I work with play in my experience. The people at SFEI had a tremendous impact on my summer and made my time here truly wonderful. From trivia night to group lunches to long car rides to chatting in the kitchen, the people I worked with this summer made me laugh, pushed me to think independently, gave me life advice, helped me grow, and in the end, make me sad to leave SFEI.
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