As I write this, I can hardly believe that 9 months ago I was packing up my belongings and moving to the great PNW. I was excited and maybe a little nervous. I ran into some bumps along the road, but it makes for an unforgettable memory.
On my last day, my mentor held a farewell lunch for me, and that’s when I realised that this was actually over. I knew it would end, and, of course, I was sad, but that date always seemed like a far-away thing. Basically our entire office came to the lunch, minus the few out in the field or away from the office, and it was such a nice reminder of all the people I was able to work with and learn from.
I definitely will say that while I was primarily a seeds of success intern, I worked with just about every resource specialist in the office in some way and highly recommend for all those considering the internship do the same. I got to really see all that these amazing public servants do, and help out on some fun projects!
A quick recap includes: bat surveys (probably to date the coolest thing I did), WA state ground squirrel surveys, homestead archeological surveys (so cool to see the historical artifacts), identifying a pre-contact bison bone at one of our properties (!), going out to decide the action for mine reclamation, rangeland health assessments, watershed health assessments, right-of-way processing, weed surveys, and so much more.
I also got to work with the Spokane District’s National Monument office out at the San Juan Islands, learn some really cool history and learn from an amazing public servant, and eat all the yummy foods around the island!
Of course, there were days that I was “over” collecting seeds, and wanting to do something a little more to do with resource advising/management, but once I got out to the field, I was so happy to be collecting seeds. When the field season came to an end, and I collected my last seed, I fulfilled classic intern activities: filing, scanning, organizing files, throwing away files, general maintenance. Those days, I really missed the field, but I got to work along side awesome coworkers that made the day go by quickly.
I will be forever thankful that my first experience with a federal land management agency was with the Border Field Office in Spokane, Washington. I learned a lot, learned there’s always something to learn (or learn again), and made friendships that will last a lifetime. Although, at times I wished I wasn’t the only intern (or that I had a group of interns at the office), I am glad it was just me. It made me step even further out of my comfort zone, and let me know that moving across the country, knowing absolutely no one, is totally doable.
So for you future interns, don’t be scared to leave the familiar behind or to do it all by yourself, and always ask to do more than what you’re assigned.
I’ve made the decision to stick around out here, working seasonally until the next season comes around, trying my luck while I’m young. I don’t know exactly what or where my next steps may be, but I know I want to go to grad school, and one day end up working for the feds. It’s for that reason, I’m sticking around out west; I figure it’ll be easier to move from Spokane to whatever seasonal position I get next, rather than haul my life from Indiana again. So if you ever find yourself in eastern Washington, you can always look me up on here!
I can’t wait to see where this wild journey of seasonal work takes me next! I am excited for all you future interns to give this a go; it’s an amazing ride if you do it right!
Over and out
Valeria Cancino Hernandez, Border Field Office, Spokane District BLM