Cliff Hull ’11 – I recently returned from my semester abroad studying in the Netherlands. After I finished my exams, I left Leiden with a couple of friends . Through the non-profit organization World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF), we were able to get in contact with the owner of an organic farm in the Algarve, the southernmost region of Portugal . For a menial maintenance fee (and sometimes for free, depending on the country’s WWOOF organization), WWOOF provides access to a database of local farmers using ecologically sustainable farming practices.

After communicating with a few farms, we decided on a farm located outside of the city of Portimão . We spent two weeks volunteering on the farm, in exchange for housing and food. Since no herbicides are used on the farm, a majority of the work consisted of pulling weeds by hand. But we also helped with other projects around the farm, such as building a new area to store firewood (as well as splitting a lot of the firewood), creation of compost areas, clearing brush for fire prevention, and cutting down dead or dying trees.

My WOOFing experience allowed me to spend time in a country as more than a tourist. I was able to get a much more authentic experience, being able to work, live, and eat with a Portuguese family. It was also nice to do volunteer work, especially in the region we were working, since it is one of the poorest regions in Portugal . It was especially rewarding to know that besides helping out the family for whom we worked, our efforts were also helping to positively effect the environment.

Just a little over 24 hours after getting home to Indianapolis from my six month stay in Europe, I started an internship at KERAMIDA Inc, an environmental engineering firm located in downtown Indianapolis. Although it’s a bit of a change from my previous summer job as a whitewater rafting guide in West Virginia , it offers me a great chance to experience working in a professional environment before making my decisions for graduate school.

Once I’ve graduated from Wabash , I’m hoping to go to graduate school in the area of environmental engineering. Getting a chance to work alongside professionals who have taken the same path I plan is helping me to better focus my plans for the future. It’s crazy to think how close “the future” is. It seems like just the other day I was a disorientated senior in high school on Honors Scholar Weekend, trying to decide where to live if I decided to come to Wabash College . Now, a little over three years later, I’m deciding what to do once I’m finished with Wabash. It’s amazing how fast it all goes.

In photos: Top right – Hull, in red tshirt, helps take down a tree. Lower left – a look at the Portuguese countryside.