In addition to our month-long road trip, my family took annual trips to Florida, Maine, and beaches on the east coast. We did not live on the coast, so visiting various beaches every year inspired my interest in marine biology at a young age.

I was especially enamored with marine mammals and wanted to be a dolphin trainer before I was a teenager. I even convinced my parents to let me attend a traveling camp at Sea World when I was 13. During high school I read more about dolphin trainers and conditions that the animals were kept in. I decided that career path wasn't for me, but marine mammal researcher would be a better fit. I looked for universities with Marine Biology as a major. I chose to attend the University of North Carolina at Wilmington (UNCW) because I loved the atmosphere on the campus. For my high school graduation present, I traveled alone to Abaco Island in the Bahamas to volunteer with an Earthwatch Expedition.   I got to work with actual marine mammal researchers to survey dolphins and whales using photo-ID from a small boat. I had a lot of fun on the trip but left wondering if that is what I want to do for the rest of my life - how would surveying dolphin populations benefit anybody?

The Fall of 2004 I started my first semester at UNCW and couldn't have been happier with my choice of schools. I spent an amazing four years studying marine biology and environmental science with a bonus 4 month study abroad trip to South Africa. I was even lucky enough to get marine biology jobs during my summers and after I graduated with my bachelor's degree. Sometimes I felt I had the best job ever – I got to hang out at boat ramps and talk to recreational fishermen as they came in to measure and record their catch. However, after working for a few months I started to get bored. I felt like I was not using my full potential, the job didn’t require much brain power.

When I originally graduated college, I had planned to work for two years and then go to grad school. I started looking into grad schools during my year working and applied in the winter of 2009. I still didn’t know what I wanted to study so I found universities that didn’t require students to come in with a thesis topic. I chose a broader program and found myself back at UNCW studying environmental management in the fall of 2009. I was much happier with my life being back in school. I made friends much easier than I had while I was working, and enjoyed challenging myself.

Now that I’m nearing the end of my master’s coursework more than a year later, I still don’t know what I want to do in the environmental field. I started questioning why I’m studying this field, when I feel like my real passion is traveling. Traveling has become the most important thing in my life and I don’t mind if I’m not in the environmental field at the moment. I’m thinking that I might be able to create a career in ecotourism, that way I can bridge the two fields. I am my harshest critic and I don’t want my years of schooling to be a waste of time. I need to accept that my career choices have evolved over time and they may not be the same as I had envisioned when I was younger. I need to accept that so that I can move on and follow my new passions without feeling guilty about them.

Have you experienced this?

4/15/2011 05:18:06 am

I have not experienced this personally but know others who have!


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