This week, Lindsay made a comment that filled me with more emotions than any one phrase has in quite some time; “We are more than halfway through the semester.” I sat there, at the metal picnic table I’ve sat at all semester, and stared at her. Thankfully, my mask hid my astonished expression.
The first rush of emotion was fear. There were many terrifying thoughts swirling through my mind. How were we, a group of ten students, going to finish collecting all our data for our capstone, analyze it, write a whole report on it, and finish our classes in less than two months. At that moment, it seemed close to impossible.
Following the fear was sadness. I scanned the outdoor space we call our classroom, taking in all the faces around me, faces that, despite our masks, have become familiar. Each of the nine other people I have shared this experience with has made their own unique mark on my life. We will be leaving to walk down our own individual paths, yet again, in such a short amount of time. Although I know we all have exciting and bright futures waiting for us, as I heard Lindsay’s words, I realized I was not ready to let go of the present experience.
The last emotion I felt was a huge rush of excitement. The thought of all the crazy and cool stuff we will have the opportunity to do in the next few weeks brought a smile to my face. I feel as if there is an astronomical chance we will not find any significant scientific conclusions through the work we have done, but we get to try. That in itself is enough for me, we get to finally start putting together something to show everyone how hard we have worked this semester. And we have worked hard, every single one of the people here has put in extra time and effort they didn’t necessarily need to at some point or another.
All of this brought me to one singular goal for the remainder of my time here. Since August, I have had awesome experiences and have gotten a lot out of being here. However, for these last two months I want to make a conscious effort to make the best of my time here. The days following Lindsay’s terrifying, but true, statement brought many opportunities to do just that.
This past Wednesday was an internship day. I have been interning with the Public Engagement and Outreach Department at CSI as a science journalism intern, all semester. I’ve enjoyed my time in this role immensely, however I was exhausted when I woke up and not exactly excited to go into work. (This is a dangerous thing to say because my mentor may very well read this) However, as I begrudgingly climbed into my car to make the eight minute trek from the guest house to CSI, I remembered what internship days met; I was spending the day with Heidi and Meagan.
We are all efficient and focused workers, but we find time to have fun too. My favorite conversations have been over our lunch as we discuss the existence of intelligent extraterrestrial life, conspiracy theories, comical YouTube videos, and so much more. I walked into CSI that day knowing I would have more of those conversations and I was going to create even more great memories connected to CSI and OBXFS.
On Thursday, I was still very tired. (I am not exactly sure why I had absolutely no energy this week, but it is a common theme that has thankfully come to an end this weekend.) Class started that day at 9:30 AM. I woke up at 9:25 AM to Bri, whom I drive to CSI everyday, pounding on my door yelling for me to wake up. In quite the panic I got ready in seven minutes and drove us to class as fast as I safely could.
During that drive, I have never been happier that Bri is the chaotic sweetheart that she is. All the way to class she bombarded me with jokes about our current situation. During class, I took in the beautiful sound side views that have been the backdrop of our academic work. I let myself reflect on how lucky our little group is to be here at this exact moment. We, unlike many people in school right now, get to study in person, interact with our classmates and professors, and do real work. No number of days that start off rocky could ever overshadow the gift we have been given by getting to be here.
On the way home I found myself feeling even luckier to have the people I have to share this time with. There are people who may have reacted with anger towards my inability to be on time that morning. Bri found a way to make the best of the situation. She filled the morning with humor and was entirely relaxed the whole time. Like every other student here, she was selfless and I was reminded that I wouldn’t want to be here with any other group of people.
Friday brought with it another field trip day filled with excitement and interesting lessons about the Outer Banks. We learned about the economic and community shaping dynamics of bridges and other infrastructure, the ecology of the northern side of the Outer Banks, and how coastal management decisions affect the future. We stopped at the Hatteras Lighthouse and discussed the decision to move it, along with the implications of that undertaking. At the Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station we learned about the history of the area and how it has informed the current lifestyles now present.
This field trip gave me the opportunity to observe on how important our instructors are to the experience of this place. Lindsay, Linda, and Andy have demonstrated a desire for every student to learn and enjoy the semester that is more obvious than any other professor I have interacted with in the past. During lunch on Friday, Andy sat with Natalie, Heidi, and I and talked about our lives, experiences at UNC, and peppered in academic and life advice wherever he could. It was clear through the entire conversation that he really cared. I noticed, throughout the day, that Lindsay was always ready with water, snacks, and general questions aimed at making sure everyone was ready to move forward and having a good time. I’m sure part of this is her mothering instincts, but I know we all feel cared for and comfortable when she is around. Linda spent the day providing humor at just the right times, she always ensures the group’s spirits remain high.
I spent the weekend working on assignments and tasks for the upcoming week all while finding time to enjoy the people around me. I found myself on a six hour Netflix binge with Todd and Janis on Saturday night. We shared countless jokes, great conversations, and created new memories that will definitely remain some of my favorites when I look back on this time.
In short, all of us who have experienced OBXFS this semester could not be more fortunate to be here. We don’t have much time left, but we have so many more opportunities to make the best of this place. We all have each other’s backs, maybe more than any other field site in the past due to the circumstances we find ourselves currently in. Everyone works hard, and even though we have a lot more to accomplish, I know we can do it and do it well.
I was not sure where I wanted to take this post when I sat down to write it, but now that I’ve reached the end, I’ve realized I simply wanted to convey that OBXFS is a great place to be. This past week has allowed me to come to that realization more conclusively. I wanted to give a glimpse into life here to encourage anyone who may find themselves on this page and consider coming to this program to do so. My semester here happened to fall during a pandemic and as a result it would be a lie to say we got the full experience of this place, still, I have never found myself in an academic or social environment quite like this one.
In conclusion, thank you to my amazing classmates who have now become my amazing friends, and thank you to our incredible instructors for not only teaching us new things and caring about us as they do, but for dealing with our antics in general. I can’t wait to finish this experience with all of you.