“A Reflection on Growth, Community & New Experiences” by Samiha Akter (Summer & Fall 2023 Intern)
When I first saw the post for the BQLT summer internship, I was immediately intrigued. I was struggling to find programs of interest to me until I saw the ad for this one. I knew I was going to have a busy summer with college apps and other responsibilities in the way, but even so, I wanted to try something new for myself. I’ve always loved plants and nature and as a daughter of an avid gardener, I was super excited. Upon spending six weeks of my summer visiting twelve different gardens across Brooklyn and Queens, I not only learned how to be better in touch with nature, but learned various skills such as mulching, weeding, and building garden beds among other things. These were all skills I had never tried before, so it was an especially fresh experience that I valued. Some days were definitely harder than others, especially with the scorching heat, but all of the skill-building was worth it.
Initially, it was difficult to connect with my fellow interns but after two weeks, the dynamics shifted. We cracked jokes with one another, weren’t afraid to work in different groups, and encouraged one another to share our thoughts.
When we visited David Foulke Memorial Garden, Megan asked us to split into two groups to do a tree identification activity. The division of groups was no surprise. Teja, Alex, and I in one group and Mir, Mohammad, and Rodney in another. Upon looking at Megan, I could tell she was worried that our dynamics would remain static. Because these were the groups we gravitated towards since the first week, it felt natural to continue to work in this way.
Towards the tail end of that day, Megan requested that we choose different groups. I was a bit nervous because I wasn’t sure how we’d get over the awkwardness, but to my surprise, it worked out. We took a walk across the block, discussed our task, and even talked about some of our hobbies. It was strange how easily we could move forward with conversation, but the more we talked, the easier it became to feel relaxed.
It was from then on that I realized just how much our interactions shifted for the better. With each week, we became increasingly comfortable with one another and a lot of it had to do with the respect each of us maintained for each other from the beginning.
During our visit to Heaven’s Gate Garden, Megan and the six of us had a significant conversation that truly enhanced my experience with this internship. At the garden, there were some dogs that both the owner and guests had brought in. Unbeknownst to Megan, as a Muslim, getting into close contact with a dog isn’t permissible. I felt awkward explaining this to her, but Megan and Irene both realized quickly upon seeing how distant Mir, Mohammad, and I were. It wasn’t the act of their realization that made it an “aha” moment, but rather what Megan said after. She stated how she would try to make sure that something like that wouldn’t happen again.
For many, I realize that that experience doesn’t seem like a big deal, but coming from a minority background, it meant a lot. As a person who finds joy in the small things, this, alongside Megan’s consistent consideration of getting the three of us halal food, added to my enjoyment of the program.
So, the biggest question you probably have is why did I continue into the fall? This internship has allowed me to discover a new part of myself. Gardening is now a favorite hobby and I embrace nature even more than I did then. I don’t let my fear of bugs or tiny critters get in the way even if I feel extremely squeamish seeing the worms in the compost bin.
Alongside the community building we did throughout the internship, I really appreciated the safe and welcoming environment offered to me. We had time to reflect on our activities through journaling exercises, a personal favorite of mine, which acted like the red cherry on top, tying the whole experience together. All this is to say that this summer was a much needed break from the hustle life I was used to at school.
While my current role as a fall intern is very different from the summer, I still enjoy playing a part in BQLT. Getting to work “behind-the-scenes” through creating Instagram posts and providing website and social media feedback (among other things) not only teaches me the effort each board member puts into their own responsibilities, but also allows me to contribute in another important way. I hope I can continue to add to BQLT’s mission and I look forward to all that’s to come.
Samiha Akter is a senior at Brooklyn Tech High School studying Biological Sciences. She is the Co-Vice President of the Big Sibs Organization (catered towards mentoring freshman) and the Research & Development Director for the Student Wellness Committee. Alongside her interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, & Math), she loves to write and experiment with word play (poetry, journaling, prose). During her free time, she loves to read Scifi, fantasy, and contemporary reads, which are her “perfect way to relax and wind down.”
📷 (left): Summer 2023 BQLT interns built raised beds at Merrick-Marsden I Garden in Jamaica, Queens–from left to right: Samiha Akter, Teja Kuwayama and Alex Shannon. Photo by Ashley Cruce (Board member).
📷 (right): Megan Cooper (Summer Intern Fellow/Coordinator) and Samiha Akter during Interns’ visit at NYC DEP’s Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment plant, with required tour safety gear! Photo by Irene Van Slyke (Emeritus Board member).
📷 (top banner): Summer 2023 BQLT interns at McIntosh N’hood Association Garden in E. Elmhurst, Queens–from left to right: Alex Shannon, Megan Cooper (Summer Intern Fellow/Coordinator), Teja Kuwayama, Samiha Akter, Mir Mosabbir, Rodney Guo, and Mohammed Islam. Photo by Ashley Cruce (Board member).
BQLT’s Summer and Fall 2023 internship program has been supported with funding from the NYS Conservation Partnership Program (#NYSCPP) and New York’s Environmental Protection Fund. The NYSCPP is administered by the Land Trust Alliance @ltalliance in coordination with the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation @nysdec
Posted on 10/28/23