Eastern Shore Food Lab

ESFL Interns Join Chesapeake Semester

December 02, 2019
In Fall 2019, three of our interns took a hiatus from their research, teaching, and production in the Eastern Shore Food Lab to broaden their worldviews and hone their environmental perspectives during the intensive Chesapeake Semester.

Melissa and Alaina report in from the field, and share how their experiences will impact their trajectory in the ESFL.

Melissa DeFrancesco kayaks in tropical waters during the Chesapeake Semester.Melissa DeFrancesco kayaks in tropical waters during the Chesapeake Semester.Melissa DeFrancesco ’22

Last fall, my perspective on the world around me changed dramatically when I signed up for Dr. Schindler’s freshman year seminar class, Food, People, and the Planet. By the end of the semester, horizons broadened, I applied and became an intern at the Eastern Shore Food Lab.

This fall, my semester took me away from cooking things up in the food lab, for yet another life-changing educational experience: an intense study of the culture and ecology of the Chesapeake Bay and surrounding areas. As an environmental studies and anthropology double major, the Chesapeake Semester program contained the perfect balance of subject relevance, classroom learning, and hands-on field experience. A departure from the typical semester, these past few months have provided plenty of firsts for me: sleeping on a boat for two nights on the Chester River, kayaking, and traveling abroad to Central America where I ate lionfish, swam in a waterfall, and snorkeled with sharks and stingrays. Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined that I would be snorkeling for college credit! By closely observing my surroundings and talking with people from a myriad of backgrounds, I grew in knowledge and discovered new ideas and possibilities for my future working with the environment. College is meant to challenge your point of view and my time at Washington College so far has done exactly that. The wonderful coordinators and professors involved in the Chesapeake Semester program know exactly how to help students to grow and see connections between themselves and the world around them.

I look forward to applying everything I have learned this fall to my internship at the Food Lab, expanding on my project of public outreach by combining it with environmental educational experiences.

Alaina Perdon ’22

Alaina Perdon pauses for a photo during a hike in Belize.Alaina Perdon pauses for a photo during a hike in Belize.From the clamming on the mucky bottom of the Chester River to scaling the 230-foot-high Mayan temples of Guatemala, from the thundering falls at the base of the Conowingo Dam to the trickling stream beside Powhatan’s grave, and from the deck of a historic skipjack to the pasture at a dairy farm, my nine fellow journeyers and I have logged many miles and made many memories during the Chesapeake Semester. I have been pushed to the limits of my comfort zone and rewarded with countless experiences I never imagined I could have. My eyes have been opened to ways of life beyond that of my own, and the individuals I’ve met in my travels have made the world seem much more connected. Trey Hill at Harborview Farms in Rock Hall and Isodoro, backyard farmer in Blue Creek, Belize, are equally as concerned about the world their children inherit. They work to achieve sustainability to the best of their ability given the resources they have. Though separated by 1,800 miles, they share the common sentiment of environmentalism, and each man has inspired me equally.

I once described my work at the Food Lab as “making my world simultaneously bigger and smaller.” Chesapeake Semester has had a similar effect: I have seen so much of the world — even travelling out of the country for the first time! — but I have found that humans are so strikingly similar wherever we are. Though the specifics of our cultures differ from place to place, we all share a love of family, a connection to our environment, and a passion for food and the history it carries. Armed with an arsenal of new insight from this semester, I plan to dive into my next semester at the Food Lab ready to bring people together: enticing our guests to challenge their comfort levels by trying new foods, educating them on the cultural significance of what they eat, and inspiring the next generation of students to do the same.


Last modified on Dec. 2nd at 10:55am by Shane Brill.