This past October, I traveled to Portland, Oregon to attend the Society of American Foresters (SAF) Convention with about a dozen other NCSU Forest Management students and faculty. The convention was a great professional development and educational experience. I practiced my networking skills after presentations, in the exhibit hall, and at the NCSU alumni social. I learned more about what employers look for when hiring someone and the educational pathways taken by professionals in jobs I aspire to.
I was also able to present a poster on my independent study in the poster forum. This was an incredible opportunity to practice public speaking and engaging with an audience by answering questions. I also was able to learn about the research other undergrad and graduate students had done. Forestry practices in the West and Pacific Northwest are very different from forest management in the South, which was interesting to learn about. The terrain and climate mandate different methods and equipment for logging, replanting, fertilizing, and other aspects of stand and forest management.
Personally, I grew from this experience as it was a big step out of my comfort zone. This was the first time I had traveled outside of the South and the first time I had flown by myself. It was very intimidating at first, and the whole way out there I felt like a deer in the headlights! By the return trip, I had gained a lot of confidence and experience in navigating airports, new cities, and how to use unfamiliar public transportation systems. Adjusting to the three hour time difference was very tough, and apparently they don’t serve sweet tea in Oregon! Overall, this was a great professional development experience that I will never forget! I hope to get back out to the Pacific Northwest one day to be able to do more sightseeing as it was a short trip.