EnSci Alumna: Connie Bottenberg
Developing Communities track
The time I spent in other countries shaped the way I view the world and how I desire to live in it. One trip, in particular, is when I went to Peru for a summer to study Spanish. While there, I saw deep poverty next door to extreme wealth, living with an upper-middle class family and spending my afternoons with orphaned girls. I also witnessed the Andean indigenous way of life while traveling to their small impoverished communities and, on other occasions, watching them riot for political rights. Their farming methods fascinated me, especially terracing, since it does not destroy the structure of soil even after hundreds of years of farming. This encouraged me to learn more about sustainable practices and about ways I could practically help these people.
In addition, when I studied abroad in Wales, I took a class on the natural disasters of the world. What struck me the most was learning about the relentless cyclones, tornadoes, floods, and mudslides in Bangladesh that do not give the people a chance to recover and the extreme poverty already afflicting the land. Through this class, the desire grew within me to be able to respond and help communities after they have suffered from a natural disaster.
While in college, I continued to develop in these areas and sought opportunities to learn other potentially helpful skills. For one spring break, I went to Juarez, Mexico to work with underprivileged children and, during another spring break, I helped out in post-Katrina New Orleans by working at a food distribution center and tearing down moldy houses, and saw first-hand a community ravaged by a natural disaster. For one year, I tutored children in an elementary school to learn more about teaching and working with children, an ability that will be useful in any kind of aid work. Furthermore, I worked in two labs, one of them being a Wetlands Research Lab where I learned how to use spectrophotometers and other tools.
The environmental science curriculum gives me a strong background in the natural sciences. In my senior case study class, I learned how to look at a piece of land and assess how to farm it sustainably and economically, taking into account the soil and water processes. For my major electives, I focused on plant classes, like vegetative succession, dendrology, and plant systematics in order to make use of vegetation in development work. Plus, I took classes in Geographic Information Systems to gain computer mapping proficiency.