The Coastal Ecosystems summer REU Site program at FIU was an experience that changed my life. I am an undergraduate student from Puerto Rico, and although there are many great opportunities on my island, I had never found an opportunity as enriching as this. The REU allowed me to grow as a student and scientist, and I met a lot of other inspiring scientists and friends along the way. I was able to create my own independent research project and present all my hard work in front of my peers. It was all scary at first, but the REU team made sure to guide us throughout the process.
As students, we were given everything we needed, and because of that, we were able to enjoy every aspect of the program. The field experiences were amazing! I had never seen so many different habitats (we even held a baby alligator!). We also participated in professional development activities that taught us about data management, communication skills, networking, resumes, and many other skills that are crucial in our progress as professionals. The program was very well organized, and I felt safe in the hands of the program directors everywhere we went.
Because of this program, I have a better picture of what I want to do in the future. Many opportunities have opened up for me to further my studies and professional growth. I was even able to present my REU research in a poster presentation at the Council for Undergraduate Research Symposium. Thanks to the Coastal Ecosystems REU Site, I have the confidence to speak up and the motivation to work towards aiding our environment. I know that I have a team at FIU and beyond that will help me in whatever I may need, no matter the distance. If you are thinking about applying, I encourage you to go for it! I know for sure it will change your life as it did mine.