Outside the Classroom: Partners in the Parks – Olympic National Park
The first person I met in the program was a boy named Ross who went to the University of Washington. He LOVED birds. He loved birds so much that he conducted research on crows that required him to walk around Seattle in a gorilla costume to see how crows would react to the costume compared to humans. Ross enthusiastically carried a pair of binoculars with him at all times, in case of a bird sighting. He once whispered to me that if I called seagulls “gulls,” then bird and nature experts would respect me more. Ross REALLY loved birds.
The other students ranged in majors from Natural Resource Conservation to Documentary Production. At Northeastern, these majors do not exist, so it was eye opening to learn what these people studied and intended to do with their degree. As we winded through mountain passes in our oversized white vans, affectionately named Gordita and Guapito, the Natural Resource Conversation majors kept pointing out different techniques of tree cutting. Being an Accounting and Finance major, I had little to add to their conversation. I did, however, find myself very interested in the overall financing of a national park. Through our daily interaction with park rangers and scientists, I learned that Olympic’s annual budget was a mere $10 million. For an area as grand and spectacular as Olympic, this small figure left me flabbergasted. After some thought, I came to the fact that money was not the source and reason for Olympic’s grandeur; Olympic was amazing in its natural self.
We interacted with the Park Rangers and scientists on a daily and personal basis. It was interesting to hear them discuss their passion and love of Olympic. As a senior at Northeastern, I am in the process of deciding what I will be doing for the next few years after graduation. Listening to the Park Rangers discuss how happy they are where they are and what they are doing really connected with me, prompting questions such as, “Do I really want to sell my soul to an accounting or finance firm after I graduate?” This question remains unanswered.
The last night of the trip, we all huddled around the camp fire and each briefly shared our thoughts on the week and our motivations for going on the trip. Everyone was honest and thoughtful in their words, leading to an unexpectedly emotional tear-filled final night. I walked away from the fire feeling so energized and positive about life that it took two hours to fall asleep that night. I awoke the next morning at 4:30 am to join my week-old friends in ascending a mountain top to watch the sun silently peak up over the horizon of rolling hills.
We took the ferry back to Seattle that afternoon. Not only was it the end of an incredible week, but it was the end of my last summer as a college student. A bit bittersweet, but there is nothing like ending on a high. As I enter my final year of university, I am only just realizing how lucky and privileged I am to have access to these unique opportunities offered through the Honors Program.