As I entered the second semester of my sophomore year, I could not have asked for a better experience than the one that the Classroom In The Wild: Chesapeake Bay trip gave me. The program is offered through the American University School of Communication's Center for Environmental Filmmaking. I am a film and media arts major with a minor in environmental science, and during this trip I gained invaluable field experience in both areas.
Our days mimicked those of professional filming days. We would spend from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. shooting in nature preserves and interviewing river keepers during kayak tours. Back at camp we would set up to film the sunset and work together to make a family style dinner, charge our gear and back up our footage, only to go out the next morning. This is how I knew I chose the right major. This experience gave me greater insight. It was an amazing peek into my future career.
Larry Engel, the professor running this trip, had been my instructor the semester prior and introduced me to this program. During the trip Larry’s decades of experience made tutorials and demonstrations full of laughter, while also showing us a sense of gravitas for the art. With donations from Sony, I was able to practice with equipment I would not have been able to otherwise. This made capturing the supermoon one of the most beautiful experiences, while also teaching me techniques with nighttime exposure and long lenses.
It was the last evening on this trip we got the major news that classes were being moved online for the spring semester. It felt surreal. We had almost formed a bubble around us and nature, not feeling the realities that COVID-19 was bringing. I truly do not think any of us realized this was the last social interaction we would be experiencing for a while. Leaving this trip, I felt inspired by the friendships I have made, both with peers, graduate students, and other faculty in the School of Communication. While I still reflect on this in quarantine, my excitement has not gone away. Seeing the videos people have put together and going through my own footage is a rewarding process. Even now, I find myself walking around with a new found creative eye, and I can't wait to see where it takes me.