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Winter Planning: 2011 and Beyond

Posted by kevinwolz on December 2, 2010

After SLE3RF, this blog has gradually become more of a college update – my way of keeping in touch with friends and family. I’m not sure if that’s what I originally had in mind, but I guess the content and purpose will evolve as I continue to pursue new things. I mean, heck, the creative title for my blog–that I never came up with–certainly isn’t limiting the content in any way. So, here’s an update on my latest plans and ideas.

Every year, as the weather gets cold, my brain switches to planning mode. Two years ago, my winter was spent researching and deciding which college to attend. With a good year and half under my belt, I think I’d call that one a success. Last winter, I began formulating my SLE3RF experiences. Again, as you have seen, that worked out pretty well. So, with temps now steadily below 30, what’s on my plate for this winter?

Winter Break in Europe

At the top of the list is what I have planned for when school lets out in two weeks. After spending barely a day and a half at home, I will be flying over to Europe for three weeks. The idea for this trip kind of started as a joke. Declan, one of my best friends, is currently studying architecture abroad in Versailles, France for a whole academic year. So, my roommate and I thought it would be really neat to go visit him. We laughed at first…and then got serious. Before I knew it, flights were booked and a week-long trip quickly turned into three weeks (Thanks to my parents for being so on board with this!). So here’s the plan: Start with a week in Poland to stay with a good family friend for Christmas, and then meet Declan and Andrew (my roommate) in London. Spend a few days in London, fly to Ireland for a few days there (including New Year’s with Declan’s “clan”), and then head to Paris, where Andrew and I can do the tourist thing while Declan returns to school. We’ll stay there about a week so we can spend some more relaxed time with Declan as well. I am SO excited for this trip. It’s going to be great for both seeing people and sights. The best part? I won’t have my computer OR phone with me…so I can finally enjoy myself a bit after a crazy semester.

Spring Semester 2011

Once I return, back to school it is, and I have already been doing a lot of planning on what next semester will be. On the whole, I have pledged that next semester will not be anywhere near as hectic and stressful as this one. A slightly lighter course load is a good start for that, but more importantly, I will be cutting down on my extracurricular commitments (these, not classes, are the biggest stress inducers and scheduler cloggers for me). I have yet to figure out exactly what will be cut on that end, but I at least do know my class schedule for the spring…and it’s going to be great! My double degree plan is actually flowing along quite nicely, despite a few minor scheduling bumps. I’ll hold off until my next post to talk about next semester’s class line up…because it’s just that good.

Summer 2011

Oh boy, this is a big one. After last summer, it’s difficult to even begin thinking about what I should attack next. Here are the potential options that are currently floating around my mind:

Research/Classes at UIUC

I’ve said that I wanted to stay on campus one summer to do research and take some classes. While a certain amount of research is actually required for my biology degree, I also have a strong inclination to try it out of my own accord because of the great experience it would provide. That said, I still haven’t found the perfect lab to work in. It would also be really great to take a few classes over the summer and get ahead on things. I’d like to say that I would then be able to take lighter loads during the year, but I know myself too well, and I would still probably fill those spots with other classes. But, at least it would give my some more flexibility…something my current double degree plan definitely lacks. I was really set on this plan about a month ago, but then so many other awesome things came up that it makes it so hard to want to stay on campus for the summer. It’s still a backup plan if everything else below falls through.

Internship with Local Dirt

The knowledge and experiences I gained over the summer had my brain working full-time to process it all after I returned to campus. To make a long story short, one of things that I thought would be really essential to creating resilient local food systems was an online social/commercial/communication network for local producers and consumers. That’s when I discovered LocalDirt.com. It’s exactly that! I quickly fell in love with the site and the concept behind it. Coincidentally, I actually have two mutual friends with the woman who started the company, so I got in touch and actually got to meet with her over break. We had a great conversation at their neat little office in downtown Madison, WI, and I became even more excited about what they were doing. So, depending on where both our paths lead in the next few months, one potential for next summer is to intern with them and continue my fight for sustainable, local, and resilient food systems! This option could also potentially be accompanied by research/classes at UW Madison and/or weekend collaborations with New Forest Farm.

Internship with Applied Ecological Services

This one really came out of  nowhere. While talking to my ecological engineering professor (the professor the most closely shares my basic philosophies) about my interests a few weeks ago, he randomly mentioned that I should check out this company called Applied Ecological Services (AES) in Brodhead, WI. AES is an ecological consulting firm, and he thought it was right up my alley. In fact, I have always thought of some sort of environmental consulting as one of the strongest possibilities of where I would end up after school. So, seeing as I would be traveling very near Brodhead over Thanksgiving break, I figured I should check it out. A few phone calls, emails, and days later, I walked into AES headquarters. I took a tour around the office, and my jaw dropped lower with every step I took. I’ve already had the revelations that there are academics and activists who think like me, but at AES I finally meet entrepreneurs and professionals that do as well. The consulting projects I saw were so neat, and the people were even better. AES’s primary appeal to me is its wide range of services (check out that link for the long list) and interdisciplinary systems approach to its projects. This is exactly what I want in a company! On the tour, I would meet an engineer, walk five feet and meet an ecologist, walk another five feet and meet a landscape architect, walk another five feet and…so it continued! The company’s philosophy and the office’s atmosphere have shot AES right to the top of my list of potential internship opportunities.

Study Abroad in Costa Rica

I’ll be honest…this is the one I’m leaning towards right now. Last winter, I was practically set to go to Costa Rica. Then I talked to Beth…and SLE3RF happened. As I rethink the opportunity to study abroad, that change may have been good in more ways than one: I now have a new set of priorities for studying abroad that has materialized over the last few months. Before, I wanted to go to Costa Rica for an intense biology experience…living in and learning about one of the most biodiverse places in the world. That sounds great, but I’ve now realized that my real priorities in studying abroad are to perfect the Spanish language and get an authentic cultural experience. Intensely studying biology at a somewhat isolated field station doesn’t quite cut it for that. Instead, I’m now thinking of going to Costa Rica primarily for the language and cultural experience, adding some biological excursions while I’m there. The program offered through the UofI runs for the first six weeks of summer and includes 2-3 classes taught in Spanish, neat excursions every weekend, and a homestay with a local family for the duration. I’m getting super pumped at just the thought of going…enough for me to test my memory on Spanish verb conjugations last night on my white board. Costa Rica is really the perfect place for me to study abroad. I mean, if I want to perfect my Spanish, why not do it in a biodiversity hotspot? Hopefully more to come on this soon enough.

I am so thankful to be lucky and fortunate enough to have these many options on my palette. Thank you to everyone who has helped me make connections, supported me, and/or given me a good reason to visit Paris. Well, what do you think? Where should I go? What should I do? The polls for Summer 2011 are now open.

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2 Responses to “Winter Planning: 2011 and Beyond”

  1. Joan said

    KEVIN,
    They all sound wonderful. You wanted input? I think Costa Rica sounds best with AES coming in second. I don’t think you should stay on campus. Get away and have a new venue.
    Your trip to Europe sounds awesome!
    Buon viaggio!!

    GB

  2. Karen Wolz said

    We look forward to working together to plan your next adventures!

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