Exploring the Bayou: A Change in Scenery
College: College of Arts and Sciences
Louisiana. Wildlife. Awesome internship? Yes. Comfort zone? No longer existent.
For the first time of my life, I decided to do something out of the ordinary, for the sake of doing something outside my comfort zone. I applied to be a summer intern with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife. Of all the applicants, only sixty were selected and flown out to West Virginia for training. I was selected to be a Visitor Services Intern for Cameron Prairie National Wildlife Refuge in Bell City, Louisiana. I was to deal with the public and help out the refuge in any way that I could. Uncertainty hit me as soon as my plane landed at Lake Charles Regional Airport. What did I get myself into?
Immediately, the interesting smell of the marsh hit me. I had entered a completely different world. Being from the Texas Panhandle, environmental diversity extended as far as a coyote and a yucca plant. Louisiana? The Amazon has nothing on Louisiana. Hundreds of species of birds, bugs and insects from my nightmares, alligators, deer…. the sheer of experience of seeing plants, animals, and experiencing a different culture alone was worth the trip.
I lived on the actual refuge, with alligators, mockingbirds, bobcats and snakes as neighbors. I did labor work, educational programs, biological surveys and fostered events put on by the refuge. Interacting with the wildlife was the most memorable. The highlight of the summer was definitely alligator tagging. My coworkers and I went out on an airboat in the early morning to capture these semi-modern dinosaurs. My adrenaline was pumping and I was very apprehensive about our task, but by the end of the night, I captured four gators, tagged them for biological research and set them free. It’s a night I will never forget, and a story I love to tell.
So, why in the world was I down in the Bayou? I’m a History and RTVF double major from a dusty west Texas town. Simply, I felt a calling for conservation work and the opportunity given to students and young adults to participate in making Mother Earth healthier made me interested in trying something new. Though this experience didn’t directly reflect my intentions for a career, it opened my eyes to pressing issues in the world today. I worked hard doing something that was an extreme challenge. Living twelve hours away from my family in a place where EVERYTHING I was used to was gone (except McDonald’s) taught me to rely on myself and trust in my surroundings.
I was asked why my internship was the best ever. Simple, it changed my life.
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