March 27, 2012

ENVS Blog: Serendipity Follows One Alum from Place to Unexpected Place

Martin Frye (’10) learns firsthand that hard work, trying new things, networking, and being in the right place at the right time can conspire to create great opportunities.

“Peculiar Travel Suggestions Are Dancing Lessons From God.” –Bokonon

It’s been less than two years since I graduated from L&C,  and I remember wanting to hear from recent alumni about how they transitioned away from college. In case you are in the same position I was, here’s my story.

Martin Frye (’10)

Four days after graduation I bought a used Chevy Blazer and “commenced” to Utah to work in trail maintenance, overseeing a bilingual work crew of Latino high schoolers with the Utah Conservation Corps. The job seemed to combine both of my LC majors, which were ENVS and Hispanic Studies. Plus, I wanted to see if all my book smarts counted on the ground in the conservation world, where a well built barbed-wire fence is materially useful in keeping cows from defecating in the river. It felt great to get out of Watzek, and it was even gratifying to pick some “low hanging fruit.” While at first I was envious of friends who relaxed  over the summer, by August I felt confident and relatively accomplished, while others from my class were just returning to Portland from vacation abroad and wondering what to do next.

In September, I once again crammed all belongings into my truck and moved to a completely new place, this time, Lake Tahoe for a year-long AmeriCorps position as an “Education Specialist” with the UC Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center. I envisioned finishing AmeriCorps and bumming around the East side of the Sierras while pursuing my recreational hobbies of mountain biking and rock climbing. However, in keeping with the chaotic nature of life on Earth, something rather unexpected happened…

One day two Turkish multi-millionaires came to the education center where I worked. I suppose they liked my enthusiasm for teaching science, because next thing I knew they had given me their business card and offered me a free visa, free plane ticket, free apartment, and a decently-paying, full-time job at Space Camp Turkey. I didn’t ask too many questions, but rather simply decided to follow this peculiar travel suggestion based on the kindness of the individuals I took it as a personal challenge. I dared myself to do it. Long story short: now I’m teaching space science in Izmir, Turkey as part of an international program, the purpose of which is to promote global friendship through space education. And the Blazer is parked at my parents’ farm in Southeast Missouri.

Basically my message for the students in ENVS 400 is this: charge out of school and do big things. The World is an unfathomably huge and dynamic place. Get out of Portland if you can, and who knows where you’ll end up? Another big lesson I have drawn from my experience (which has only just begun) is that when you are doing something you truly enjoy, people can tell. I know the inverse is certainly true! Also, you never know who is watching; they could have the resources or connections you need. So it’s a good idea to keep working hard, no matter what you are doing.

Practically speaking, I would recommend AmeriCorps, though if you can get a job outside of AmeriCorps in this economy, more power to you. I found applying with AmeriCorps was a great way to work in a field of my choice, while reducing the level of competition for jobs. AmeriCorps also has many economic incentives in place for those with student loans from the government, and there is a great potential for networking.

To close: I believe ENVS students can go on to do pretty much whatever they want after school. I mean this in the best way possible; a degree in ENVS is just broad enough that, to the average person, it seems really impressive. While I was initially worried about my degree being too generalized, I have ultimately been satisfied and grateful for the liberal arts education. Don’t limit yourself, and I think you’ll be surprised what will come your way.