Very few study abroad experiences offer a chance to be truly independent. While some may allow their students to pursue directed research projects, they are often within bounds predetermined by the program. However, during the first semester of Hamilton’s Adirondack Program during the fall of 2015, students not only had a chance to be independent in their academic pursuits, but they were also able to explore areas of interest outside of their comfort zone by way of internships. These jobs completed the “Field Component” requirement of the semester curriculum.

The nine students from the inaugural semester each worked with one to five organizations within the Adirondack State Park during their time at the program. The students were given the network, connections and freedom to choose internships in which they were truly interested. Since these internships counted for academic credit, and each job required time away from the program’s home base, the Mountain House, this type of experiential education taught students essential time management skills outside of the traditional classroom.

Julia Ferguson ’16 started her internship with North County Public Radio (NCPR) the summer of 2015, funded by the Summer Internship Support Fund, and lived and worked in the park before continuing her job during the semester program. While this was her only internship during the program, she spent an extensive amount of time on research assignments, writing about and photographing projects for the radio station. Her assignments took her from the famed Follensby Pond with Bill McKibben, where Ralph Waldo Emerson stayed the summer of 1858, to the opening of the Wild Walk exhibit at the Wild Center. She also pursued a story of her own interest about the dichotomy within the Adirondack economy between impoverished rural towns and flourishing tourist areas. Ferguson felt she was “given so much responsibility as a journalist” as an intern for the NCPR, and this contributed to her feeling “a part of the Adirondacks.”

Many of the other students spent some of their time on one of the six sustainably-minded farms in the Adirondacks. Isabelle Bradford ’16 interned at Asgaard Farm and Dairy, Mace Chasm Farm, and North Country Creamery during the semester, and took a particular liking to butchering meat. She is currently committed to work as a butcher with Mace Chasm Farm after graduation this year.

Ianthe Lekometros ’16 spent her time at Asgaard Farm and Dairy, Essex Farm and Sugar House Creamery milking cows and goats, managing farm animals, and making different kinds of cheeses. Lekometros also worked with Rachael Wilkin ’16 at the Adirondack Wildlife Refuge to write a grant for an aquaponics system for the center. Wilkins worked on Essex Farm with Lekometros as well.

While Taryn Ruf ’17 worked at North Country Creamery alongside Bradford milking cows and making cheese in the early hours of the morning, she also installed a barcoding system at the Keene Valley Library. Ruf returned to the library during the winter break as a paid employee to finish organizing the library system. She barcoded Adirondack archival material that is now searchable by anyone seeking historical information that ranges from religious materials to tourism documents from more than a century ago.

At the vegetable farm Fledging Crow, the work Kianee De Jesus ’17 did planting, harvesting and cooking vegetables helped her better understand food and changed how she approaches it. At the North County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NCSPCA) for her second internship, De Jesus created a humane education program for local schools to incorporate into their curriculum. She remarked how even though she worked directly with the program’s executive director, De Jesus had to maneuver through the local Adirondack education and human societies to create a proficient educational program of her own.

While Amelia Denney ’17 worked at Fledging Crow Vegetables along with De Jesus, she also baked at Mountain Tomboy Baking and shadowed doctors at Adirondack Health centers in the park to better understand the workings rural hospitals. 

Denney also worked with the Wildlands Network, an organization that buys land to patch protected wilderness areas together. She used Google Maps to plot all of the areas protected by the organization within the Adirondacks, as well as the species protected and people involved in acquiring the land.

Along with Anne Emanuels ’16, Denney spent part of the semester interning with The Nature Conservancy in Keene Valley, N.Y. Together, the two students developed a wild invasive aquatic plant program that highlighted which Adirondack waterways are most threatened by invasive species. This will allow The Nature Conservancy to effectively allocate resources to the most high-risk areas of the park and inhibit the spread of invasive species.

In addition to acting as an ecological consultant, Emanuels also worked as a summit steward for the Adirondack Mountain Club. Through this internship, she hiked to the summits of the tallest mountains in the park and taught hikers about the how essential the delicate plants growing in the alpine environment are to the ecosystem.

Alexa Merriam ’16 spent her a portion of her semester in the park interning for the Adirondack Council. Though she never had a particular interest in journalism before, Merriam flourished with the chance to write a feature article for the Council. She collected interviews of local residents, who helped her better understand the balance between humans and nature within the park.

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