Through this internship, I have come to love the town of Lakeview and will truly miss it. However, it is becoming clear that it is time to depart and move on to my next adventure. As one of the last hangers-on after the fire crews, the high school and college seasonals, and most of the other seven CLM interns have filtered out of town, the smell of wood smoke and forecasts well below freezing are signaling the end of the season. I have seen more territory, learned more about land management, and gotten to know more interesting people than I ever thought possible.
Although I could go on and on about driving four-wheelers in the winter rain, watching helicopters drop flame retardant a mile away from town, and sneaking suspiciously away from Disney Princess balloons, I mostly want to use this final blog to express my extreme gratitude to the Chicago Botanic Garden for establishing this program. These days, it is next to impossible to find a paid professional job right out of college. Like countless other students, I was incredibly frustrated to discover that my tens of thousands of dollars and four years of nose-to-the-grindstone hard work meant nothing to employers scanning solely for “real” experience. The Chicago Botanic Garden stands among very few institutions that think out of the box and use a different method in their hiring practices. Thank you, CBG, for understanding our plight and establishing a program to smooth the transition from school to work. You are leaders in making the professional world accessible to recent graduates.
The CLM program offered me the most valuable thing one could ask for: that elusive professional experience. My work leaders were incredible about sending us out in the field with different crews and making sure we understood every aspect of our work. They explained what we did not know and sought our opinions on what we did know. We took pride in our data and felt that we became an indispensable part of the interdisciplinary team for evaluating rangeland health and writing Environmental Assessments. My resume seems to grow on a daily basis, filled with new skills and bragging rights.
Beyond experience and payment, everything else should have just been icing on the cake. Yet this internship came to mean so much more to me than just a job. I had an incredible time bonding with my partners in the field and my trailer-mates in our living quarters. I learned so much from this huge variety of people with such different backgrounds and knowledge to share. In the BLM office, just about everyone was incredibly nice and helpful. My first time living in a small town in the middle of nowhere was an extraordinary success. I will never forget the roaming animals, the gigantic stars, the stereotypical cowboys and the exceptional small town gossip. I only hope that my future employment experiences will be as fulfilling as this one.