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Elysia Viengkham selfie in the fieldWhere did you attend field camp?

I attended the University of Washington’s field camp, which was located in the beautiful Pacific Northwest.

What did receiving the J. David Lowell Field Camp Scholarship mean to you?

For the last four years, I have been working full-time, while also attending school full-time. I’ve needed to do this in order to support myself and my family because I returned to finish my education in my late thirties. Field camp is so time intensive, I knew I would not be able to maintain a full-time working status. Receiving the J. David Lowell Field Camp Scholarship made it possible for me to cut down my work hours to less than part-time so that I could attend field camp. Without this capstone course, I would not have been able to complete my education and it was only possible with the assistance of this scholarship.

What did that experience teach you about the geosciences, yourself, and your future career?

This experience showed me that I am most definitely heading in the right direction with my life. Every day in the field felt natural to me—like I was meant to be doing that very thing. I have had many different jobs in my life, and I never would have imagined finding a profession like this. It would be hard to call it work when it really just feels like I am getting to explore structures and processes that fascinate me. Trying to unfold the history of earth structures and materials has the same wonderment as reading a captivating book, except this story is written within the Earth rather than on pages. I only wish I had realized that this is what I was meant to be doing much sooner in my life.

What opportunities did attending field camp provide that you wouldn’t have had otherwise?

The last two years of school were difficult because of COVID. Geology is not conducive to remote learning and not being able to meet other like-minded peers made networking almost impossible. Field camp was one of the few times I was able to spend time with professors and other students whom I have been taking classes with for the last two years. Prior to that, my only interactions with them were through the camera during remote classroom sessions.

In your opinion, how important is field camp for geoscience students?

The field camp experience is absolutely necessary for geoscience students as it allows students to apply their knowledge to real-life problems and environments. The field camp experience teaches students how to handle the social aspect of traveling, working, and living together while doing geologic fieldwork. It also helps students to fully understand all of the logistics required to successfully work in the field.

Why should individuals support field camp opportunities for students?

It is important that students receive support for field camp opportunities because the cost of them is usually quite high. Field camp is essential for geoscience students because it is a rare chance to apply everything that was learned during their university studies. It is saddening to think that others might not be able to pursue this educational path because the monetary cost is too great. For me completing my education was incredibly stressful, but having the financial support of the J. David Lowell Field Camp Scholarship gave me the ability to focus on school rather than how I was going to pay for it.


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