My Favorite Part of F&F was the Friends I Made Along the Way

With my internship coming to a close, I wanted to reflect on what I enjoyed the most this summer. During these past few months, I’ve been busy facilitating programs, learning how to improve my interpretive programs, and exploring a lot of the park. I’ve had tons of new experiences, and I have many things I could quickly talk about that would make for a simple blog post. However, I want this blog post to focus on something that has impacted me the most. Something I’ll remember years from now. So, for the past few days, I’ve spent much time playing back my favorite memories from this summer. I quickly realized that what I enjoy reminiscing on the most is all of the interactions I’ve had with people this summer. The moments that put a smile on my face are always centered around my coworkers and the week I spent in Colorado with the rest of the Fish and Feathers crew.

Spending a week in Colorado with all the other interns was so much fun! I made many friends, and it was one of the first times I felt I could be my authentic self. Usually, I get anxious when I’m around a lot of new people, but everyone was so welcoming and fun that I had the chance to get myself out of my comfort zone. It was so refreshing being able to be myself and make genuine friendships. During that week, we would all hang out, share stories, and discuss what kinds of impacts we can make in our parks. I hope to stay friends with all the people I connected with.

I got along so well with the whole Fish and Feathers crew! It was seriously awesome. EFTA did a great job bringing us together. Another thing EFTA did well was planning the roommate situation! I have no idea how they decided who rooms with who, but it happened; I’m super grateful that I got to live with Brianna and Kiana! It was fun to hang out and gossip with them at the end of every day. They were both so sweet and funny. Brianna only lives a few hours away from me, so I’m excited to see her again soon! Kiana lives A LOT farther away from me, but I let her know that Saipan is my next destination spot so I can see her, lol. 

Getting to know all the f&f interns was so much fun. I could spend all day writing about everyone! It was awesome getting to meet Kaylie because she’s so beyond sweet and super creative! I loved getting to meet Julia, we got to relate on what it’s like navigating life as indigenous women. I loved getting to laugh and laugh with Bianca and Shane. It was so cool getting to hear all the cool bird knowledge Abraham has. I could go on forever. ETFA did a great job picking f&f interns this summer and I’m so beyond grateful that I got the chance to be a part of this awesome crew.

My favorite moment from orientation week was our last night together. Almost all of us met up after dinner to play games and hangout. Some people went to bed, but most of us decided that we’re going to be tired on the plane regardless, so we should stay up and have some fun. We probably stayed up until 4 or 5am. We played card games, played Smash Bros on my Switch, and talked the night away. I wish I was a better writer so I could fully articulate how much magic was in the room that night! I learned that Itzamar is a beast at smash bros, and that she loves older video games like me! When we played card games I got to watch Alanna shuffle cards like a professional. It was an amazing night. We spent hours having fun and ended the night off by reflecting on how important it is to have programs like Fish and Feathers. It was probably the best way we could’ve wrapped up orientation week. Below is a photo I took before we all left for our rooms. A couple of people were saying it was their favorite photo taken during this trip and I definitely agree.

When I got on my plane to leave Colorado I started crying. I missed everyone so much and I was in shock over how well I got along with everyone. Going to the fish and feathers orientation showed me that it’s okay to me myself and I was excited to see where that’ll take me at Great Smoky. Because of that, I made a promise to myself that when I started working at Great Smoky I would continue to be my authentic self like I was in  Colorado. When I work, I usually keep to myself until my shift is over and I don’t make many connections out of nervousness. But I wanted this time to be different and I’m glad I did! I made a lot of connections this summer that I don’t think I’ll ever forget.

All of our department got along well with each other. Anytime we were all in the office we would laugh a lot and have fun. While it was fun just cutting up with each other, what I enjoyed most was getting to learn everyone’s stories. I loved getting to hear about what it was like in other parks. I loved learning why everyone chose to work here this season. And I also loved how collaborative we all were. It seemed like every day I was able to approach a coworker for advice on my programs or just professional advice in general. I was also able to work with other natives which was a first for me! It was so cool having people in the building that just “get it” lol. 

Below is a picture of us pointing different directions for the bathrooms. We took this picture because it’s an inside joke on how often visitors will be right by the restroom building and ask where the bathroom is lol. We were taking photos so we could have some department pictures, but it was hard to get everyone on the same day. So, this is most of my work crew minus a few people. 

The conversations and connections I made with my coworkers was probably the most beneficial part of this internship. I learned a lot about interpretive programs, career paths, and personal growth. Getting to know Stefani, Rachel, and Cody was such a special part of my internship. All three of them have taught me extremely valuable things and I don’t think I’ll forget this summer thanks to them. Stefani has encouraged me to take risks and believe in myself. Spending time with Rachel inspires me to put my all into everything I do and that being a thoughtful and caring person is one of the best things you can strive to be. Cody has taught me a lot about the relationships indigenous people have with public land and how to navigate these spaces as a native person. While I took away a lot of serious things from them, the thing I enjoyed most about getting to know them is how much fun we all had. I consider them very valuable friends of mine and I hope we stay in touch.

I tear up thinking about not getting to work with everyone anymore. I have never gotten emotional about leaving a job or internship before. That alone has shown me just how much I enjoyed working with the other interns and seasonal rangers. My Fish and Feathers internship introduced me to some of the smartest and most creative people I’ve ever met, and if I become even half as good as they are with interpretive programs, I’ll be in great shape.

1 Comment
  • Brianna Stevens
    Posted at 11:03h, 05 August

    Avery, I am so so grateful that I was selected as your roommate for the Colorado training. It was wonderful getting to learn about you and all that you wanted to accomplish. You’re going to do great things wherever you go. Keep being your authentic self. 💜