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Environmental Studies

ENVS Blog: Outdoor Education and Naturopathic Medicine

March 27, 2017

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Eva Johnson (’15)

Choosing to major in ENVS has been one of my favorite decisions. I was interested in so many majors as a freshman, that choosing the most interdisciplinary one was a no-brainer. My journey with ENVS was dotted with many “aha!” moments, lessons in critical thinking, scholarly research and developing technical skills, though my path was also a winding road all the way up until the final weeks of senior spring semester. (My concentration sophomore year, for instance, was about air pollution and human health in an industrializing world, and my senior capstone project was a look at alternative healthcare in the US and how we perceive the role of “naturalness” in medicine.) Its not until now - two years since graduation - I can see with clarity that this winding road is exactly why liberal arts colleges exist; and why Jim continued to encourage me each time I entered his office with a new idea that would take my project in completely new directions.

Stepping into the real world after graduation day, I found myself ready to get my hands in the dirt. And that’s exactly what I did. I spent the summer being a farmer at Sauvie Island Organics, then I was a rock climbing instructor, a pie chef, a tea tender, a statistics specialist and graphic designer for a real estate company (thanks ENVS 220!), and finally an intern at Colorado Outward Bound School. A year of trying out jobs and testing the waters was incredibly helpful for understanding what environment I work best in and what field I want to pursue.

My experience interning at Outward Bound was full of incredible mentorship, opportunities to hone my leadership skills, and a tight-knit community of fellow outdoors enthusiasts. I am now on my way to being an instructor, and excited to continue to merge my love for the outdoors with adventure education. In congruence with Outward Bound, I am also taking the first steps to pursue my persisting interest in naturopathic medicine by applying for apprenticeships and pre-requisite classes once I return to the US.

In a sense, I’m continuing my exploratory education as I write this. I am six months into a ten-month trip through Argentina and Chile; where I’ve been speaking Spanish, doing work/trades and trekking as much as possible. This wild adventure is one that my ENVS education has undoubtedly enhanced. The lens through which I perceive these new environments, and how they’re intertwined with local societies, comes from a place of critical examination. And, of course, it’s always interesting to study the impact I have as a tourist in these realms. While my desire to be a conscious and active citizen of the world has grown immensely, so has my dedication to my own country. Catalyzed by the new presidential administration, I jumpstarted a fundraiser for Planned Parenthood that has reached $3,150 by hiking over 250 miles in Patagonia.

Almost two years since graduation and it’s safe to say I’ve already used a wealth of skills that the interdisciplinary ENVS major provided me. Several different jobs, travel and a whole lot of adventure have cleared up questions about what I want my next steps to be. Now I look forward to returning to the States to follow a love for outdoor education and, quite possibly, a doctorate in naturopathic medicine.

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