Beyond my own Backyard

By Gabriella Chilczuk

Hello CCA blog readers! I am the third and final intern to introduce myself and share my experiences that have brought me to the University of Washington’s environmental studies program. If you have not read Eden and Jon’s blog, go check them out! All our unique experiences have lead us to this amazing internship with CCA. By reading our introduction posts, you will get insight on the passion that drives us CCA interns to give you all a positive experience with this organization.

To start things off, it is important to know some background information about myself. My parents immigrated from Brazil and Argentina, looking for a better future in America. They met years later in Seattle, got married, and had four children. As a family, we never discussed the environment or its degradation. When we did learn about the environment, it was in school learning about simple sustainable lifestyle changes, like the “Three R’s” (reduce, reuse, and recycle!). We practiced these behaviors at home, but that was the extent of our environmental awareness. Looking back this is surprising to me since we were constantly outside. If we weren’t on the soccer field or rowing out on Lake Union, we were playing out in our backyard. Screen time was never an issue with us. Being outside was where we were the most comfortable.

Fast forward to college. It’s fall quarter of my sophomore year and I am taking my first environmental class. It was also during this quarter in which I took my first hike. Immersed in the mountain ecosystems, I was in a completely novel setting. The view of the Cascades at the top took my breath away; the whole experience feeling unreal. In that moment, my connection with the outdoors grew. This new environmental knowledge I’d learned from class extended the outside from just my urban backyard, to the tops of Western Washington mountain ranges. I was struck with amazement at how special our planet is.

By the end of the same quarter, I was enrolled in the Program of the Environment. Who knew that all it took was hiking up into the mountains? I had always had a connection with the outdoors, but in a smaller, human-influenced space. My backyard was just that, my backyard. Up in the mountains I felt like I transported to new landscapes. I wasn’t exploring a city in Europe or Asia, I was exploring the natural world. Nothing made me feel more appreciative of our planet then that.

As I continued hiking around the Pacific Northwest, I was learning about the science behind it all. From how the landscape formed billions of years ago, to native species and their roles in the ecosystem. With this, my passion grew.

Now I spend moments outdoors with my siblings in a different way. I share my knowledge with them and watch their love for the environment grow. I have seen a huge difference in all my siblings attitudes towards the environment. I am learning more and more every day that I can spark a fire in people. Simply being outside and sharing your love for the environment with an individual can truly make a difference and inspire change. Sharing the experiences and knowledge I have gained in college with my family has transformed our household. Being outdoors is now a new experience where we all get to appreciate and learn about the environment.

If you have read this far, I hope you enjoyed my story and I hope it has inspired you to share your love for the environment with others. Next week’s blog will feature the first hike I went on in the PNW, including trail information and photos. Stay tuned. See you next week!