I’ve been at the UIC Office at Sustainability for a little under a month, and already I feel like I’ve learned more about contributing to sustainability than I have in my entire life. I took this internship for a number of reasons, but the primary one involved an ideal that I have: we can have careers without “selling out.” As a lifetime idealist, my struggle in getting my degree and looking for a career has been with the age-old concept that we need to fend for ourselves and insure that we are financial stable above all else, including doing what some might call “good work.”
Growing up in a family of teachers (literally almost everyone in my extended family teaches public school), I’ve been surrounded with people who refuse to give up what they believe in order to succeed. They’ve all had the best of both worlds: doing “good work” and having financial independence in a stable career.
What I’ve learned here so far at the Office of Sustainability (aside from the various small things I can do that make a big difference in sustainability) is that I can have positive influence on the world around me and succeed in my endeavors. This office is the best of both worlds. I value learning as much as I value my idealism, and this office helps to foster that hunger for knowledge and positive influence. I feel supported by this staff, and I also feel like my actions, however small, make a difference.
While interning here, I plan to learn how to use my skills for the “real world” while at the same time maintaining and supporting my own principles. So far, I’ve already caught myself at various times checking my habits and paying attention to what I throw away, how much food I waste, what I can do in my apartment on a day-to-day basis, and how my actions have an influence on others. The English department has helped me to pay attention to the world around me; the Office of Sustainability has been giving me the tools I need to make it a better place and, at the same time, succeed in my individual goals.