As I’m sure my fellow classmates can attest, graduating from college in May is a strange and unsettling combination of incredibly exciting and absolutely 100% terrifying. I have a lot of decisions and a lot of uncertainty in my future, and a lot of it boils down to the fact that I have to start living my life. I’ve spent the last 16ish years of my life in school, and now it’s time for me to start trying my hand at being a real life adult.
But there is one aspect of this next step that’s not quite as scary as I thought it would be. I now know what I want to be when I grow up. My passion lies in the ocean, specifically deep ocean physiology and adaptation to the crazy intense pressure that animals have to live with down there. And I have to partially credit Whitman for that beautiful nugget of self-realization. Through the Whitman College Student Engagement Center’s Summer Internship Program, I was able to intern at NIWA (National Institute for Water and Atmospheric Research), a marine biology research facility similar to NOAA, but in Wellington, New Zealand, during the summer after my sophomore year. I applied for a grant through the Student Engagement Center (SEC, for short) to get an unpaid internship doing the things that I thought I might want to do for the rest of my life. The opportunity to do a summer’s worth of marine biology lab research at an institution like NIWA was wonderful in so many ways. I was able to experience what it would be like to actually do marine biology research in a “real world” setting, and for a long period of time. One of the most valuable things that I gained from that summer was a strong sense of stability in my desire to pursue marine biology as a career.
I think that it’s really easy to get caught up in college and classes and majors and never critically think about whether or not you actually like the work you could be doing for the rest of your life. The SEC gave me (and hundreds of other students) the opportunity to become more confident in my future, and more secure in my passion for marine biology. And that makes graduating and trying to force myself into adulting so much less intimidating, and so much more exciting.