WRFI loves receiving updates from our alumni! It’s particularly meaningful to hear about how their courses have impacted their lives once they’re back at home. Michaela is a University of Arizona student and participated on WRFI’s 2012 “Wild Rockies Summer Semester.”
When Bethany Swanson first came into my anthropology class, the upper division course that as a freshman I was not supposed to be in, I had no idea she would change my life. A bright and early 8am class, she cracked a huge grin and I wondered how much coffee it took to get her here in front of us, I myself was gripping a thermos full of it. She proceeded to greet us and delve into details of a program that greatly appealed to me. It was called the Wild Rockies Field Institute and all of their courses were conservation themed field classes.
The options that you could choose from for your field course included all of the things I had grown up doing outside of class with my family: kayaking, biking, camping, hiking, etc. I had never dreamed that the activities I dabbled in outside of class could ever mesh with learning in class. Yet here she was, proposing just that, and I knew I had to be a part of it. I spoke to her after her presentation and got myself well on the way to signing up for a two-week restoration ecology course. It was not in the cards for me to go on that trip, with too low of enrollment, instead destiny had it that I go on a two month course; little did I know the impact it would have on my life decisions.
Before my WRFI course experience, I felt that I was still a youth. I felt that my ideals and lifestyle were determined by me but that that was the only way I had power. After my experience I realized that I could affect change in more ways than just through how I live my life. I have shared my readings with my family. I have turned three different households of highly right-wing conservative college students to recycling, in homes where that idea would have been utter nonsense before. I voted for the first time since I turned 18 and had registered, and I convinced everyone of age that I spoke to about voting to do so. I know I can reach those that I elect through citizen letters, and thanks to my WRFI course, I know how to write them. I got my grandfather to cancel his newspaper subscription so he now gets paperless news online. I decided to preceptor for a Soil, Water, and Environmental Science class for the Fall semester where I shared my summer conservation experiences with Shell Canada, Jumbo Valley, and organic farming with the class and my honors section. These are just some of the ways that I have been affecting change since I got back from my trip, and it will continue to grow as my life progresses, because I realize now that even these little things matter.
For me, it’s been the greatest accomplishment and adventure of my life thus far. It’s been little more than five months since returning home from the backcountry but I talk about it every day. I don’t just talk, I revel. I remember and reflect. The return has been just as impactful so far as the experience itself. I am adjusting to the return with this knowledge and different more economical lifestyle.