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Aloha Midway Atoll, and Mahalo
by -- January 30th, 2012

Words do a mediocre job of describing the amazing experience that was Midway Atoll, but they try. A summation of my trip.

Aloha Midway

Aloha Midway

I am sitting in the Chicago airport as I write this. I just could not bring myself to write a goodbye to Midway Atoll on Midway Atoll. I almost cannot remember what I did that day (and “that day” seems so long ago even though it was only two days ago); it is all a blur of not wanting to leave and missing Midway before I was even gone.

I know my last day consisted of walking on the beach one last time, of saying goodbye to the monk seals and sea turtles, the white sand beaches and crystal blue water, every last one of the albatross.

By now, all of these things are familiar to me. I had no idea what was in store for me before I came to Midway, but now I know. Midway is a place of wonder, a place of success and a place of struggle. We saw conservation in action at all levels and witnessed what happens when three separate government agencies attempt to work together for the greater good of the environment. We saw what happens when history coincides with environmental needs and managers have to determine which side wins.

Laysan Albatross

Laysan Albatross

Everyday, I woke up to the sounds of Albatross dancing, walked the dirt roads around the island witnessing the remnants of a historic battle, walked the beach and saw the effects of people miles upon miles away as the beautiful turquoise waves rolled in and the monk seals lazily snoozed on the white sand. I saw the dedication of people working far from home to protect what they believe in, an atoll with character and personality that would waste away without their help.

Midway’s issues are the issues that we, as Nicholas School students, will face in the very near future. They are the issues talked about in class as well as issues we never could have imagined before witnessing Midway. Either way, after this experience, we are much better prepared.

This class in Midway is one of the most expensive travel courses the Nicholas School offers. But was it worth it? Every penny. I networked, I surveyed, I discussed, I thought, I felt and now I am ready to act.

Classes can only take you so far. Professors share their experiences in hopes to convey to you the knowledge you need to survive in our field of work. But you never really know until you are there, until you have those experiences yourself, because you never know how you will react until you are put in a specific situation.

The birds, seals, turtles, fish, people and issues won over my heart. I struggle to write this because it is difficult to put into words how Midway makes you feel. And that is also one of the issues Midway faces: how to convey to people that have not been there why we should work so hard to save it.

Before leaving Honolulu for Midway, a previous student told us that Midway had changed her. At the time, that statement simply got me even more excited for the trip – which I did not even know was possible. Today, I realize the full extent of what she meant.

Midway changes you. Obviously, we are all passionate about environmental conservation (otherwise, we would not be in this degree); however, Midway instills a deeper passion. So often we hear of the failures of conservation, of the hard work and seemingly impossible job we have in front of us. Midway is a living example of success, giving us hope and telling us not all is in vain.

Back on the mainland, I sit in Starbucks sipping coffee that is definitely higher quality than what is on Midway but still tastes bitter because I am not drinking it while looking out over the vast Pacific. I listen to music that does not compare to the melodies of the birds. My scratches, a testament to the planting and work I put into the island, are already fading. I write in hopes to convey the sense of amazement I felt on Midway. Just read the classblog if you need more testimony.

I do not know what my future holds. As I work towards graduation and the prospect of getting a job, only one thing is certain. I will always have Midway and I will be a better environmental manager because of this experience.

Click here to see a slideshow from my trip!

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