I walked into my first day as an intern greeted by 10 select Europeans who had decided to dedicate 10 months of their time to volunteer for the Marine Protected Area of Punta Campanella. Prior to even engaging in conversation, I was quite blown away by the sense of selflessness this special group had, giving this big chunk of their time to such a cause. Right off the bat I was welcomed in with open arms through stimulating conversation and personable questions. I learned the various backgrounds these people had come from, the subjects they had chosen to study as well as what their motive was to do such a rewarding experience. I noticed the reason for service was almost universal among them circulating around the point that they wanted to do their part when it came to improving human impacts on the Earths marine environment.
As an intern in this position my roles varied from field work, entailing a lot of physical labor going out and collected trash from the sea as well as manually protecting the area of Punta Campanella from fishing and anchoring through kayak transportation. From the get-go it was a very humbling experience due to my past professional experience following a task-reward structure where I could complete something and feel as though I had accomplished. It did not take me very long to realize the problem being dealt with, that being human impact on the ocean environment, had an intense demand that needed immediate attention. I had entered this experience with a capacity of knowledge regarding climate change to go as far as a couple of documentaries or reels on twitter talking about the issue. I recognize now how easy it is to not put a sense of importance on something when you can’t necessarily see it happening right in front of your eyes. This experience changed this for me, and I was able to gain the hands-on experience I needed in order to form my own opinion on what is happening on our planet and just how serious the issue has become.
Between collecting trash from the ocean, protecting a rich biodiverse marine environment from destruction, and visiting a sea turtle hospital, I was able to connect the dots when it came to how serious of an influence us humans have on the marine environment and how little efforts are being put forth to change it. To be honest, it was sad at times and I was overtaken by defeat in certain situations where I was faced with people who either don’t believe it to be a problem or some who don’t even care to listen. Eventually this sense of defeat was transformed to a sense of responsibility as a young person who was lucky enough to experience this type of education firsthand and see the problem face to face. When I transformed my perspective and realized the team I had around me, I noticed the various backgrounds and cultures did not take away from the point that we all occupy the same planet. While the differences among the people who occupy this planet and the beautiful cultures that follow, the one thing that is universal is the planet we walk upon. The experience not only immersed me into a cultural enriched environment but also reintroduced what humanity meant to me and how universally it is shared if we put our efforts towards the one thing we all have in common.
Carly is a Summer 2021 Sorrento student from the University of South Carolina.