Author: Pablo Muñoz-Cambronero – Education Coordinator for OTS
Yes, I know, one chooses OTS because of all the facilities, closeness to the forest, available data, laboratories, research cubicles, accommodations, 60 years of presence in the tropics, and all else. Well, all of this is real. Visit any of our OTS Research Stations and ask the same question to recurrent researchers or visitors. They will probably give a similar answer: because of the people, the memories, the stories, the intense feeling of being in such forests, the nights sharing thoughts on the porch, the lunchtime all muddy and sweating with colleagues, all those intangible aspects that are shared among the different OTS experiences.
I started my OTS journey almost six years ago, when I decided to apply to the OTS graduate field course Ecología Tropical y Conservación. I was full of doubts and insecurities, because less than six months prior I was part of a shorter field course where people really made me think I could not be part of this “thing” called science. It made me doubt my capabilities and that I have what it takes to be a scientist. I thought, “Wow, those were only two weeks, and now I am enrolling on a six-week course…” Well, I ended up attending with three other close friends, and this gave me confidence.
Now that I see this in perspective, I am thankful that I went to the course. It changed my scope of what a scientist can be, which paths I could take, opened a broad range of possibilities, and gave me a set of new skills ready to put into practice. More than the academics, I also had a big turning point personally. I made life-long friends. We became part of the OTS family, and you only realize that when you start going places to talk a bit about your background or hear about someone, and – surprise! – you both attended an OTS program. It is like an enormous web of people that are connected to OTS in one way or another. Usually, they start with a course. But once you are in, you keep coming back.
Continuing my story, a year later, I landed my first job as the course Teaching Assistant, where my purpose was to give those students the experience of a lifetime, to give back a bit of what was given to me. I would hold the same job for the next three years. Now I am the Education Coordinator in Costa Rica, where my core objective remains the same, because I know what it means to me to be part of our courses – to be OTS.