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Becoming a Better Student and Citizen

This alternative service break experience with CSLEPS was nothing less than memorable. The participants were well selected and I know I have made long lasting friendships both with them and the faculty who lead the trip. The faculty organized the trip very well and allowed us to see such a diverse perspective in environmental justice in eastern NC.

We were exposed to the aftermath of Hurricane Matthews in Lumberton, hog farms in Duplin County, a small community organization (Coastal Water Watch) trying to make a difference in Southport, the effects of historical disadvantages in Navassa, which lead to brownfield sites, a nonprofit organization (Riverkeepers), and we were also able to participate in multiple volunteer opportunities to enhance the community throughout Wilmington.

I pursued this experience because I haven’t really been exposed to this side of the ETM spectrum. As an ETM major I have had a lot of field and lab experience, but even though I have learned about policy in class I have not seen first hand the importance of it and how it directly affects a community. This side of ETM really stirred some emotions in me. It not only angered me to the point where I felt like I needed to take action right away, but also reassured my passion for this major. I am usually a quiet person when it comes to controversial subjects such as politics, but this program enlightened me in such a way that I could no longer hold back what I wanted to say. It made me more aware of the importance of advocacy and staying informed.

I have seen many documentaries of the cruelty of the meat industry and the impacts of these usually only touch me for a week or so, but this time it was different. After seeing how not only the animals are treated, but also the people in the community, I have not eaten meat since this trip. This seems like a temporary and not an impactful decision, but I reassure all of you that going meatless not only helps the animals but also the community and the environment. I feel like participating in going meatless is a small thing I can personally do to help this environmental injustice.

I think it is easy to experience something, and leave it behind once you come back to your own reality. This is something I did not want to happen to me. When I returned home, I found myself becoming more active in my awareness of the different issues going on. Just telling people about these experiences spread awareness of the ongoing injustices This experience has changed me for the better because it gave me a new perspective of my own major. This really geared my future career aspirations by making sure to not only have the environment but also the community apart of my priorities.  This trip did however stir up some of my thoughts for life after graduation on whether I want to pursue a career in field research or policy, but I know whatever I decide to do, I will enjoy it.