Words of wisdom from a 4th grader

It is funny, this week I went to another refuge called Agassiz and helped out with a 4th grade school group. At the end of the day, they all got the choice to climb a fairly tall fire tower. I am not a fan of heights, so I skipped out on doing it. A couple of boys were in line waiting their turn to climb the tower. One of them asked me, “Jessica, are you going up there?” I told them no, I am afraid of heights. The two boys nervously replied, “So are we, but we are conquering our fears.” This Saturday morning, waking up to a free day, I thought about some of the things I am afraid of doing, maybe less afraid and more worried and insecure about it. A lot of the things that I am worried about are really small, like driving the government vehicle to Fargo today with the other two interns in the car. I am always insecure about my own driving, and getting lost, or doing something that the other people in the car will point out. One of the other small things I am nervous about is making spaghetti for the first time. I totally realize that making spaghetti is fairly simple, but once again, it is my insecurity and awareness of how others will look at me if I fail or make a mistake. This thought pattern this morning brought me back to that little 4th grader, standing in line, waiting to climb a tall tower and face his fears. I guess that is the theme of my internship; facing my fears, insecurities, pushing myself to do things that I am not confident in. So, today, I will drive to Fargo, and sometime this week, I will make spaghetti.
Now, on to more interesting things for you readers, hopefully. This week I helped out with school groups again. I may have mentioned this in my last blog post, but I just can’t believe how blessed I am to somehow connect with kids. I have worked with teenagers and preteens the past few years and haven’t had much opportunity to spend time with elementary school kids, so I felt a bit out of practice. Despite feeling out of practice, I have become buddies with almost every kid in each school group that comes. I have worked with 2nd graders, 4th graders, 3rd graders, and 5th graders and have had a blast with every single grade. When we split them into groups and they come to my group, I immediately ask them their names and ask them if they want me to call them any nickname. I have had some pretty funny nicknames: Mr. Awesome, lasagna, happy baker, sledge hammer, double jointed boy, ninja, razzles, and so many more I can’t even remember them all. The great thing about all of this, is I love hanging out with them all, I enjoy playing games with them, joking with them, talking with them, and for some reason they love hanging out with me too. They will say I am their favorite part of the day, they ask me if I am going to be a part of their group the entire day, they cheer when they find out they are in my group, they express time and time again that they like being with me. I hope none of this sounds arrogant, because honestly, I don’t see how I am any bit special in how I interact with them, but none the less, I am soo grateful that they see something special in me anyways. All of this, has me thinking, if God gave me this special gift and I enjoy it so much, perhaps my career path is to work with kids. I am beginning to think about it more and more and I have a strong feeling I will come back from this summer and have a lot more of an idea of what I want to do once I graduate.
It was fun to test out some of the food/coffee places here in Minnesota. Sarah (the invasive species intern) and I went to a coffee place called Cofѐ in Crookston, a town about 30 minutes away from us. It was a cute little coffee shop with sandwiches, coffee, and the best part, fast internet!!! Anyways, I think it is our new favorite spot and the girls working their said if we come in enough they will remember what drinks we order, which has never happened to me in Arizona no matter how often I visit a coffee place (Extreme Bean!). We also tried a pizza place called Rhombus. It was pretty good, but kind of pricey and you could only pay with cash or a check.
On to another busy week of interning, I get to do a lot this week. This weekend though, we are picking up Anna (The refuge operation intern) in Fargo and of course, are going early so we can take advantage of internet at a Starbucks and good food at a restaurant. Then, Sunday, we are having a Barbeque at our bunkhouse, with cheddar and bacon stuffed burgers and one of the staff members of Rydell helping us out. Monday is a holiday, of which, I have no idea what I am going to do, though there was a suggestion to go to the lake just outside the refuge. Then, I am spending two days at Agassiz Wednesday and Thursday helping out with school groups. The week should go by very quickly and then I will have been here three weeks, about a quarter of a way through my internship. I am counting down the weeks until I go home because the more time I am away from Arizona, the more I long to be home and the more grateful I am for so much I have there.


Writing a blog post on my first week at my internship in Minnesota is a difficult task. I have jumped so many hurdles in one week, I can’t believe I didn’t trip up more times than I did.


                My first hurdle was leaving Arizona. I know that might seem like not so much of a challenge, but it was. I have never been away from home any longer than two weeks, at least, not without my family with me. I am fiercely passionate about my home, I love Arizona, and I defend it all the time to people. Leaving it is always a bit of a challenge. What I wasn’t prepared for, was my emotional reaction to leaving my mother in the airport. As we said goodbye at the security check line, I started crying. I must admit, I felt a bit ashamed, but like my mother told me, there is nothing wrong with crying because it just means that I have a good home and love my family. On the plane, I kept reminding myself that, the fact that I cried meant I was lucky and blessed.

                I jumped over and through numerous other hurdles during this week from having to buy my own groceries to getting up at 3:30 AM and driving to a site to watch Prairie Chickens. I have been pushed out of my comfort zone every day this week and it phased me at first. I had a rough start and couldn’t help but cling to my home, family, and wish that I was there instead. The dreary weather didn’t help; it rained my first day, and was very very chilly almost every day this week. Luckily, as the week went by, I was able to see things in a different light.

                What made me enjoy my days, despite the fact that I was completely overwhelmed by my new surroundings, were the school groups we interacted with every day. As the public service intern, one of my duties is to help out with school groups when they come. Here was something I finally knew how to do, I can talk to children about animals, I can hang out with them and make them laugh. I was a bit rusty at first, though I threw myself into the work without being trained or really told what I needed to do. The school group was split into three groups where they migrated to different activities: birdhouse building, nature walk, and games. I started really enjoying my job when I got to do games and even learned the kid’s names in my group. One of the days, a group of kids came up to me and said, “You are beautiful” and they hugged me when they left. The next day I had kids chanting that games were their favorite part of the day and today I had two girls hug me, tell me they were going to miss me, and that they were going to come back during the summer just to see me. I have no idea why kids like me, but I am always happy they do, because I have fun spending time with them.

                Hurdles I jumped this week: getting to Grand Forks North Dakota, figuring out where to sleep the first night (in the lower bunkhouse, which looks like a low class Outdoor Ed, or in the upper bunkhouse on the couch), how to open a shed and charge a golf cart, how to drive a truck out of a tiny garage, how to get to a small town in the middle of nowhere, waking up at 3:30 AM, and finding a little blind (a house with windows) for bird watching in pitch black. Fun things that happened this week: finally saw my first deer on the refuge, becoming better friends with Jacob (the other intern), seeing The Amazing Spiderman sequel at the smallest theater I have ever been to, watching Prairie Chickens display at 5 AM in the morning, getting to know the Rydell staff, and finally spending a day in the refuge when the sun was out for most of the time.

                I already feel like I have learned soo much. Some things that are difficult to explain over a blog post. When I return to Arizona, I am sure I will be vocalizing all the lessons I learned to anyone who will listen. It comes down to this, I appreciate so much more, my home, friends, family, the Phoenix Zoo, the Phoenix Zoo staff, Arizona, Tempe, ASU, and to be completely honest technology. It is a bit isolated out here. The nearest town is about 20 miles away and has a population of 100, a Dairy Queen, and a gas station. I just know I have so many more lessons to learn this summer, hopefully less painful ones, but still valuable. Thanks for everyone who has been sending me well wishes. I will try and get some pictures up soon so you can see what the refuge looks like.


                Just as a little addition, hopefully with some pictures to add, I got the weekend off, so I took advantage of my time and drove the golf cart around the refuge. I saw snakes, deer, ground squirrels, turtles, and of course lots of birds. It was a beautiful day, just the right temperature, with the sun out. I won’t get tired of walking around the refuge and taking in nature, no matter how homesick I may get. 



Before and After

As some of you may know, I was offered an internship in Minnesota for this summer back in April. The internship involves working at a National Wildlife Refuge pretty much surrounded by lakes. All I know is what the supervisor and other interns have told me about the refuge and I know a bit more from the website and pictures. Everything will be somewhat a surprise when I get there, but I know, no matter what, it will be an incredible experience because it will teach me a lot. It is a good test run for the real world, I think, since lately I have been thinking about how hard it will be when I have to move out of my parents house and look for an actual job and live on my own. It might sound silly to some of you who have been dying to move out since you were in your teens, but I enjoy my house, I watch a movie with my parents every night, and I love my state, beautiful Arizona.

The facts:
1. I will be working at Rydell and Glacial Ridge National Wildlife Refuges.
2. I am the visitors services intern.
3.My job consists of environmental education to K-12 grades and wildlife interpretation to the general public.
4. I will be living on site in a bunkhouse.
5. There are already two interns/employees living at the bunkhouse.
6. It’s absolutely beautiful there. 🙂 Sorry, more of an opinion, I guess.

Those are the facts. I leave today at 2:58 PM, with two very big, very heavy suitcases, a carry on bag, and my backpack. My flight will be about four hours long. Once I get there and experience a week of getting to know my surroundings, I will write another post… the “after” part. I am sure I will be able to tell you a lot more facts.


I am sure my biggest challenge, will be cooking for myself. :p