Originally posted on thelionfishproject.com, 3/29/2013

The months of January and February were particularly tough for me. After first starting my Lionfish Project proposal in August, I had finally turned in my final submission to the National Geographic Young Explorer’s program. Throughout January and February, all I could do was wait.

I first learned about the program while interning at National Geographic over the summer. I  became acquainted with some Young Explorer Grantees during the Explorer’s Symposium in June and became absolutely fascinated with their work (read more about the Symposium here). In the coming months, I was on the Young Explorer’s site daily, pouring over the different research and exploration projects. There were experienced filmmakers, archeologists, climbers, anthropologists, ecologists, and photographers. I clicked from page to page in a state of awe, mostly thinking to myself, “I am so out of my league”.

But I decided to pursue a grant anyway. I emailed the Young Explorer contact at Nat Geo with my idea to get some feedback, made countless appointments with professors to get advice, and read up on every Grantee I could find. For the next five months, my project shifted and grew constantly. I cold-called research stations and scientists in the Florida Keys  and spent hours online trying to figure out the logistics of the project. The Nat Geo contact said that the top thing the review committee looks for is that you know what you’re doing, and I was hellbent on proving to them that I had thought this through.

After a few late nights and a fair amount of stress eating, I submitted my proposal and began the waiting. That month or so was torturous, and I know I wasn’t the easiest to deal with…my friends were counting down the days until I heard, just so I would relax. The email came at 1pm on a Wednesday, just before I had an appointment with a professor of mine. While waiting outside his office, I started yelling and crying and hyperventilating all at once as I read the words, leading my professor to bolt out of his office in a state of confused panic. I had never felt so relieved and excited in my life- mostly because I never remember wanting anything more than I wanted this grant.

Since I got the email, the real work has started. I went to DC to meet with my contact at Nat Geo, have spent hours working on designing business cards and my website, and have had to finalize the logistics of the project. Although it’s a ton of work, especially on top of my schoolwork, I couldn’t be happier. I’m pursuing something I love while being supported by an organization I’ve respected my entire life.

One year ago, as a starstruck intern at the Explorer’s Symposium, I told myself I wanted to be a National Geographic Explorer. And now, thanks to the helps of my parents, professors, and friends, it’s actually happened. I am unbelievably honored and grateful to embark on this journey with their support.

Want to learn more about the Young Explorer’s Grant Program? Check out their website here

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