Summer 2021 URA Nicholas’ Blog Post

I hold a Queen Anne’s Lace bloom with a honeybee resting on it.

by Nicholas Bhandari

KBS was so daunting a thing to comprehend at first, but as I explored and got to know it, the more I realized it was more akin to a mentor and friend than a sterile educational institution. And friends uplift and grow with you; I don’t know how else to describe my transformation here than meeting a new friend. And not a friend of circumstance, but a friend of shared interests and common goals. I’ve experienced so much in my life that I thought KBS would be just another slow summer, but I’m coming out of it reinvigorated and reinspired.

Do you ever exist in a space for so long that you forget how you perceived it when you first got there? That’s exactly how I am with KBS. Coming here I was nervous, scared, and lonely – precisely what you’d see in a student moving away from home and expected to be completely self-dependent for the first time in his life. But one summer later, here I am, excited for the future for what seems like the first time in my college career, ready to take on my final year in undergrad, and surrounded by people I have come to know and love. Now the empty apartment I moved into at the end of May is bursting with memories of my time here.

Group trip to the Kalamazoo Farmers Market.

I’ve grown so much here, not only as a student and professional, but as a person. I’ve met people who see me, who understand me. I’ve figured out where I want to be when I graduate. You’d think that my role here as an undergraduate research apprentice would see me wanting to go to graduate school and pursue a career in research and academia, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. My time here has showed me exactly what I don’t want to be, and I believe that is the best outcome possible.

Sunset view from the research dock at KBS.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad that I was given the opportunity to produce research here. I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything. But at the end of the day, I am not a research scientist. I am driven by a burning desire to better the world and work on the frontlines of environmental degradation, I am in hot pursuit of the need to help the world understand that we have WICKED problems, but we have solutions as well. At first I thought that research would be my calling, given my natural curiosity to learn more about everything I encounter. I think, though, that my want to do good by the world is more focused and pointed than my curiosity at this point in my life. I’m leaving KBS positive about three things: 1) I am not a researcher, and that’s ok; 2) I’m ready to take on the real world and change things; and 3) I’m unconditionally and irrevocably in love with Trader Joe’s lemon zest and ricotta raviolis. #iykyk (don’t judge us for going on a Twilight marathon)

Of course there’s more that I wish I’d have had time to do here, but I think that for the first time I won’t regret the things I haven’t done. I am so filled with gratefulness for my time here that there isn’t room for wishing and yearning. The friends I’ve made, the things I’ve learned about the world and about myself, and the renewed commitment to myself and the world around me that I’ve developed here make the whole summer worth it. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

So as I move into my final year of college, with so much written in my book, I believe that KBS will be one of my favorite chapters.