As my experience at the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Forum comes to an end, it is becoming clear just how beneficial these few days have been. Just yesterday, I was being encouraged to introduce myself to strangers, ask questions and try to network within a group of people I felt I was not exactly a part of. Walking into the Forum and the professional world it seemed akin to a culture shock and I was just supposed to jump in and become a part of it. Little did I know at the time, but this experience is the most invaluable experience (thus far) to me as a student, as a member of the environmental community, and even just as a member of society.
There is a large sense of intimidation as I walked into a room of two hundred experienced professionals, forgetting the fact that these people may be the very ones hiring me, two years from now. As this thought finally made it into my mind, the intimidation factor rose, but it shouldn’t have. The fact that there were two hundred possible bosses in the same room as me should have been exciting. I have this chance to make an impression, show everyone why in the world they would ever want to hire me. Thankfully, this intimidation factor only lingered with me for about an hour. After I came to my senses, I just jumped in and hoped for the best.
I listened to presentations from the directors of the Chesapeake Bay Program, The Nature Conservency and the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay. I spoke with Riverkeepers from three different rivers, young and old professionals of environmental agencies with confusing acronyms, and countless volunteers. I have a notebook of endless information, but more importantly I have started relationships with some of these professionals and have obtained their ever invaluable contacts. What comes to an advantage is that many of these programs are located in my hometown. The number of job and internship possibilities in my area are far larger than I initially expected.
This experience has taught me to be more curious about my community and more actively involved in the opportunities that my community has to offer. I have been inspired to write letters to my local government, volunteer for the riverkeepers in my area and be mindful of local policies. Two years from now I can only hope to have some confusing seven letter acronym below my name.