Submitted by Diala Abboud (Macalester College)

It is the evening of July 7th, and I am on the phone with my best friend Gina describing my hopes and fears about being a near peer mentor to the seven Keck students I’d be meeting the next morning. Would they listen to me? NOPE. Would they respect my “authority”? NOPE. Would they snark at me and think of me as a huge dork? YUP. Not only was I predicting the absolute worst outcome, but I was also grotesquely mispredicting the personalities of each and every student I had yet to meet. I worried so much, in fact, that I “stress dreamed” about arriving to the airport to travel to Glacier (we drove, in reality) without my gear, only to find that the group left me! Classic. Now, if you’re anything like Gina, you would say that I’m apprehending very unrealistic worst case scenarios. Turns out, she was right. Thankfully, my fears were obliterated. From having Josh and Etienne accompany me to the airport from 7:00 am to 3:00 pm the following day, to when Jacob and Liz held my hand across certain parts of the trail when I experienced vertigo, to when Bonnie packed my lunch after I arrived from a night in Cleveland back to Minnesota at 8:00 am, to when Anna remained calm while we faced both a mama bear with cubs and a moose all in the same day within 20 feet of our research quarters in the delta, and to when Liza tagged teamed balancing the inflatable kayaks on our heads hiking back from Red Rock Lake whilst singing American Pie after a full day in the field. My experience was better than I could have ever hoped for. The Keck team members have left a lasting impact on me that I couldn’t have imagined even in my wildest dreams. Coming into the Keck project, I had very little idea of what my role would look like. However, with a group as supportive, kind, and optimistic as this one was, assuming my role happened organically.