School navigation

Environmental Studies

Life in the Real World: An ENVS Alumnus’ Experience

May 21, 2009

  • News Image

David Brown Center in Berkeley, California

May 21, 2009

After graduating from Lewis & Clark, things were a little bumpy. I worked as a research assistant (RA) for the Environmental Studies program and helped out with the Mellon Foundation-sponsored faculty workshop in southern Oregon. The job was pretty great – I biked to campus two or three days a week, did some research, worked on a bunch of online stuff, and got a mini-vacation down to Canyonville’s Seven Feathers casino. After my RA position ended, I worked at a tamale stand at various farmers markets around Portland. I enjoyed myself, and got to eat plenty of fresh food for free, which helped out with expenses. This job also ended, and I started to feel a little desperate about paying the bills, as well as finding a job in my field. I had been applying to environmental education positions with every non-profit I could find, and hadn’t gotten a single response. I was on idealist.org and Craigslist every day, and the job postings were starting to dwindle. It struck me that I had graduated college at a very bad time.

In desperation, I finally landed a job as a receptionist at a high-end day spa in downtown Portland. It was awful. I had to wear all black, talk in a soothing whisper, and I wasn’t allowed to wear shoes. It basically felt like a cult. After two of my paychecks bounced, they decided that they had to downsize, and I was laid off. And that is how I became an unemployed college graduate.

Feeling totally defeated and ashamed of my perceived failures, I moved back to San Francisco to live with my parents. At first, I had a hard time with the fact that I couldn’t “hack it” in Portland. However, I began reconnecting with my old friends, and realized that there were a lot of things I wanted to be doing. I worked part time doing construction with my father, and spent my free time riding my bike around, taking a ceramics class, doing yoga, and singing karaoke. I have to admit: living rent-free can have its perks!

I eventually found an internship with an environmental non-profit in Berkeley called the David Brower Center. I basically just started showing up once a week and doing whatever job they needed someone to perform. I figured that it would look good on a resume, and maybe by a stroke of luck I would be able to make enough connections that I would be recommended to another organization six months down the line. Instead, the Brower Center decided that they needed another staff member, and created a position for me. I am officially the “visitor and tenant services coordinator.” Kind of a long title for what is basically a really busy receptionist position. This time, however, I’m a receptionist at a place that I love.

I am happy to say that I am now, finally, working in my field. It ended up being a great idea to move back home, and although I miss Portland, it just wasn’t working out for me. I know I’ll always be able to come back to visit, and now the Environmental Studies program has one more alumni in the Bay Area. If anyone is interested in contacting me, I would be glad to help out with any internship or job recommendations that come my way. Email me at krogala415@gmail.com.

Posted by Kelly Rogala, ENVS ‘08

37.871593; -122.272747