Cultural Experience | Canada

Nat Geo to McGill Students; “Get your feet in the field and fall in a few holes”

Get Inspired with a National Geographic Young Explorers Grant Workshop.

My name is Robyn Powell, and I am majoring in Anthropology at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec. During the last weekend of September, McGill had the honor of being the first educational institution in Canada to host a workshop from the National Geographic Young Explorers Grant program, a program which has been hosted by Yale, Harvard, and Stanford to name a few.

Thanks to an incredible amount of work on the part of Professor Colin Chapman, over 100 students came together to participate in discussion, panels, and presentations hosted in part by Kenny Broad, one of the legendary Bahama Blue Hole divers. Through these presentations, we were inspired by the work of several young people under the age of 25 who have been awarded these grants in the past, and got to experience the amazing feats they have accomplished. We were treated to talks from Amy Higgens (studying the manmade glaciers in India), Andrea Reid (studying invasive perch in Uganda and showed us all terrifying photos of giant sharp-toothed fish) and Becca Skinner (who beautifully documented the aftermath of the 2004 Indonesian tsunami). All three were pursuing their groundbreaking research in new and innovative ways, and National Geographic had come to speak to us to encourage McGill students to do the same.

During the presentations, we were given an enormous amount of valuable insight into choosing potential projects, and what we could do to better our chances of getting funding. Some of the best pieces of advice were to try and make your research speak to a wide range of people, from a biologist to a historian. To show why your research merits so much passion. To make sure that you diversify your skills as much as possible, because you never know when the fact that you can scuba dive or speak Arabic will be really useful. Perhaps the most valuable piece of advice came from Mr. Broad himself. He told us that we needed to concern ourselves with more than getting a good formal education. He told us that sometimes the only way, and the best way, to learn was to get our feet into the field and to trip and fall in a few holes here and there.

Overall, the workshop was an amazing experience. Everyone who came in walked away with fresh ideas and new potentials. The master of ceremonies told us at the closing of the day that a student had already come forward to submit a pre-application, and that this was the fastest they had ever seen a student apply! When I heard that, I thought that it was the perfect representation of the dedication, spirit and attitude of McGill students, and I can’t wait to see the new projects that will flood from my university out into the world.

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