Monday, June 16, 2014

An Explorer's State of Mind

Last week was a very special time at the National Geographic Society in Washington, D.C. The society hosted its Explorer’s Symposium, an annual, weeklong event that brings together the top “emerging explorers” to speak to Nat Geo’s staff about their cutting-edge research, discoveries and experiences in the field. One explorer, Jack Andraka, developed an inexpensive and efficient way to detect pancreatic, ovarian and lung cancer when he was 15 years old (he’s now 17). Another was Shabanna Basij-Rasikh, an Afghan woman and educator who formed SOLA, a nonprofit organization and school that gives young Afghan women the opportunity to empower themselves through education.  

As I listened to these speeches, I couldn’t help but be in awe of all that these explorers have done for the betterment of our world. As I listened to each symposium participant, I began to think about the role exploration has had in my own life, and especially within this internship. So far this summer, I’ve been lucky enough to explore much of what D.C. has to offer. But even more than that, I’ve begun to explore exactly what it means to be an intern at National Geographic Magazine.

When I arrived two weeks ago, I felt like a minnow in a sea of much larger (more intelligent, more successful) fish. While my previous internship had a staff of 14, the National Geographic Society employs nearly 1,500. Quickly, however, one of my supervisors clued me in to the key to success: explore. Go to meetings. Pitch ideas. Try something new (like office Yoga, which is extremely difficult … and sweaty). Wander out of the text department and go see what research is doing. Or social media. Or international editions. And I have learned that this piece of advice, while a bit intimidating at first, will allow me to craft a National Geographic expedition of my own. Now, I’m not sure if it will reach Jack Andraka status, but still… I’m excited to see what the next eight weeks will bring, and all that I will discover.
--Emma Weissmann, The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, National Geographic Magazine
edited by Andy Zunz, University of Central Florida, Field & Stream

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