I can’t believe it is already my fourth and final year at Prescott College. I came here as a wide-eyed 18 year old knowing I was here to study the environment because it was fascinating, and knowing little more about it. Looking back and becoming nostalgic about my experiences here, I’ve decided to post about just one amazing opportunity I had through school. During my second year here at Prescott College, I applied for a CIEL exchange semester at New College of Florida. It’s always hard to leave friends and community in Prescott, but I saw the CIEL exchange program as an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. I couldn’t believe it when I looked at the extensive list of schools I could go to for a semester. It was hard to pick just one, but I settled on New College of Florida for an adventure in an entirely different ecosystem.
This experience began with a cross country road trip from AZ to FL with two friends, a big pot of pasta salad, and a ’95 Honda accord. Seeing the dramatic landscapes across the west and the gradual change to subtropical forest gave me a true understanding of the multitude of ecosystems in the southern US. After a long and epic journey we arrived in beautiful Sarasota, Florida, and jumped straight into the ocean.
I instantly met a few other students on CIEL exchanges from schools around the US. It seemed that each person in the exchange felt pride about their school, but needed to escape for a semester (an issue I didn’t have since I’d already spent a semester in Kino and both blocks in the field), and we all immediately bonded. The coolest class I took in Florida was called Eumycetozoans, or slime molds, in which we surveyed a maritime forest. If you don’t know what slime molds are look them up! They are amazing organisms!
I decided to stay for the summer before returning west, and got two internships in town. The first was working as a beach bird monitor for Audubon Society. I was given training on how to spot nests, chicks, and to put up signs in the area to educate beach-goers about these threatened species. My species of interest were snowy plovers, black skimmers, and least terns. I also had an internship with Sierra Club working on a Clean Water Campaign. I organized a Water Sentinels program in which I trained local volunteers in checking the water quality of water bodies in their neighborhoods.
In August I returned to Prescott and to the friends I had missed. I recommend a CIEL exchange to everyone because there are adventures to be had everywhere, especially if you can get credit for them!