Students choose to spend time away from the Hill
Will Bloomhardt '12, far right, is spending the fall semester working at Bandelier National Park.
- Being ‘Good’ and Getting ‘Wyze’
- Atkinson ’15 is student by day, DJ by night
- Students bring songs from The Attic
“I have never felt as connected to nature as when I blindfolded and restrained a baby elk,” Will Bloomhardt ’12 concluded about his experience during his semester off. Bloomhardt decided to work as an ecology intern at Bandelier National Park in New Mexico for six months instead of coming back to the Hill directly after summer break to start his junior year.
A majority of Colby students spend a semester or even a year in a study-abroad program that takes them away from campus. But few actually take time off from school in order to do something out of the ordinary and experience the world beyond the confines of a collegiate institution.
During his first months as an ecology intern, Bloomhardt’s responsibilities have ranged from the mundane to the truly majestic. “I’ve spent a formidable amount of my 900 hours working here pulling tumbleweed and puncture vine from around the park,” Bloomhardt said. However, he has also had the chance to go elk-tagging, which he describes as his most amazing internship experience to date. “All we had to do then was walk up to [the calf] and throw a blanket over its eyes while we tagged its ear and took a series of measurements,” Bloomhardt described. “Throughout the whole ordeal, the calf never moved a muscle. It was a really unique experience to hold a handkerchief over such an adorable creature’s face, with another arm over its soft fur, and watch it lie perfectly still. Everything about the experience was beautiful.”
In addition to Bloomhardt, Sam Deeran ’13, Coyne Lloyd ’11 and a handful of other students have taken time off from Colby in order to pursue other endeavors. Bloomhardt and Deeran are currently away, and it has been two years since Lloyd took time off. Deeran is in Hollywood taking a stab at stand-up comedy. Lloyd started his year off working on the Obama election campaign and ended it in Dakar, Senegal teaching English.
Although Deeran went to Hollywood to pitch his stand-up routine, he has met the fate of so many who try their hand at breaking into the entertainment industry: “finding a job, then working that job” while following his stand-up pursuits on the side. He is currently working as a telemarketer, which he describes as “disastrous” for his conscience. “I say my job title is ‘scum of the earth,’” he half-joked. “I field calls to people who are in dire financial straits and have the ignoble duty of asking them for more money.
“Soon, hopefully, I’ll have a studio internship reading scripts,” he continued. “That’ll distract me a bit.” However, Deeran didn’t come out to Los Angeles with the sole intention of having his stand-up act picked up; he also wanted to experience “the city of stories.”
“It fascinates me to be able to go a location where you can see the struggle behind the art you love going on everyday,” he explained. “Sometimes, it can be more exciting to see someone produce art than to see the final production.” Part of that struggle might be working as a telemarketer.
Lloyd began his year off in Philadelphia, “sleeping on a cousin’s couch and working 40 hours a week for the Obama campaign and 20 hours a week at a thrift store to pay rent.”
Lloyd worked for MoveOn.org’s voter registration campaign, which required him to stand on the street, identify people who hadn’t yet registered to vote and register them. After the voter registration campaign ended on October 6, MoveOn promoted Lloyd to the position of a volunteer coordinator. They flew him out to Ohio and Colorado, where he coordinated efforts to organize, recruit and train volunteers for the campaign.
“By the time it was election time, I was working 100 hours a week,” Lloyd remembered. “I wasn’t doing anything except waking up, grabbing a granola bar on my way to the office, grabbing a granola bar on my way to passing out on the way back [home]. I was losing weight, but I was having such an intense time. It was really awesome.”
After the campaign ended, Lloyd was still itching for new experiences. He soon decided to go to Senegal to teach English. “I had broadened my perspective greatly after going to Russia and I felt like I could do that so much more by going to a place in the developing world,” he explained of his reason for choosing Dakar as his destination.
But his time in Senegal was not without its difficulties. “[Senegal] was really rewarding in the same ways [as the election campaign] but it was way more challenging,” he said. “It wasn’t what you could call a complete success, but I learned a ton.”
Lloyd started out at a non-governmental organization but moved on to teaching English, first at a school for street children and then at a private school. “Teaching is hard, especially [when you’re] teaching a group of people who have a different culture than you, a different language than you and [when] you don’t have a syllabus,” he recalled. He was asked to fill a vacancy in an emergency and was left completely adrift.
“[The school] didn’t have any of [the previous teacher’s]old lesson plans and I was making things up on the spot every moment," he said. "So it was really challenging and the experience was awesome. But there were days I was thinking, ‘what the hell am I doing here?’”
Lloyd came back to Colby as a junior, feeling much more confident than he did when he left Colby a year earlier. As he gets ready to graduate in the spring, he has a unique experience under his belt and can face “the real world” having already navigated it.
As Bloomhardt ends his time at Bandelier, he feels reaffirmed in his commitment to conservation biology. “There’s always a shred of doubt that halfway through college you’ll find that you’re no longer interested in what you used to be," he reflected. "Having spent six months doing fieldwork, I can now be all the more certain that fieldwork is in fact my dream job.”
As far as Deeran is concerned, although his time in California has not been materially successful (yet!), his time off is more about the journey than the destination. “I miss Colby, and Maine, all the time. I am caught in a strange land, and I tap my red shoes everyday. There’s no place like home,” he said semi-seriously. “But that’s why I’m here. Then again, it’s still America. Look how adventurous I think I am.”