Thursday, June 16, 2016

A New Place for New Thoughts

When I first arrived here in Menomonie, I told myself not to have any expectations or thoughts about what the summer would be like. With a new experience, especially one so unfamiliar, I wanted to put forth my best effort into having things surprise me, and not be so caught up in over thinking what would happen upon arrival. So, I wanted a blank slate for myself in terms of thinking about the project I would be doing and the civic engagement that would be required.

However, I still had images in my head of what the town would be like, and how the program would work. Being from the south, I had never been this far north until now, so that was something new to look forward to. I also had never practiced ethnographic research in a formal setting apart from class requirements, so I was really looking forward to learning and preforming that task for the project. That being said, Menomonie exceeded the images in my head. I am from the Blue Ridge Mountains, and seeing hilly greenery surrounded by water made me feel right at home. I enjoy the college town atmosphere a lot, and feel comfortable navigating my way through. I think someones environment really contributes to the overall attitude they take on for work, as well as how their initial mindset for each day starts, and since Menomonie has certain similarities to something I am comfortable with, it is naturally easy to settle in well.

Before this REU, I had never worked on formal social science projects. I have experience in the field for various other projects, but I never thought that a social science internship, especially an anthropological one, existed to the extent that I could do it. My love for anthropology is one that makes me think, "There's no way I can enjoy something so much, and actually have it be my job!", but then these types of REUs and professions are real, and they do exist. So, my only expectation that I held before arriving was simply being happy doing what I love and in a place that allows me to expand my knowledge, apply what I already know, and gain insight and understanding to new people that are on a different but similar path that I am currently on. In that sense, LAKES REU has both met and exceeded the expectation. Everyone is dedicated, intelligent, and welcoming. Working with people like that, and building those connections while doing research in a field that I am passionate about is a rare and wonderful experience that I cannot wait to explore further. To me, that is the most important expectation to have, but for myself, and that is something that I will take with my beyond this summer, and into my future.

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