Olivia Ritter: Be Uncomfortable

Because of a Ferris Scholarship and a Hohenberg Foundation Summer Traveling Fellowship, Design Arts student Olivia Ritter was able to spend her summer in Israel focusing on sustainability and sculpture with Desert Days Eco-village. Olivia went through a formal application process and was chosen by MCA Student Affairs for the Hohenberg award, after which she received the Ferris Summer Internship award. We are thankful to our donors for making trips like this possible. Read about Olivia’s exciting opportunity below!

How did you find out about this internship?

Over the past semester, I had done lots of research on traveling with a limited budget. I found websites like “Go Abroad” and “All Hands Volunteers,” but they all seemed trendy and much too overpriced. After hours of online research, I ended up finding a small organization called GoEco that provided various trips around the world, some cheaper and some more expensive. I ended up finding Desert Days Eco-village, a small up and coming community that allowed volunteers to build infrastructures, sculptures, and re-purpose pre existing structures out of the local materials.

What did you do to make this internship happen?

I sent in letters of recommendation and provided research on personal and external objectives, passions for wanting to visit, and basic proof of a willingness to work hard.

What types of projects did you work on?

The majority of the work included creating the mud mixtures, which were dirt (clay), hay, sand, and water. From this mixture, we built an outdoor sofa set with a table, reformed existing buildings, created the desert days sign, built an ornamental mirror for the homes, created a fully working kitchen, and built various other sculptures.

Were there any surprises on the job that you weren’t expecting?

I know personally, I did not think I would do any long hikes, but ended up solo-hiking from the West coast of Israel to the East coast of Israel in three days. What did I have with me to guide me across the country? A Hebrew map (all I could find), a compass, and a backpack with some food, a hammock, and a pair of socks. I think the most unexpected occurrence was how relaxed and trusting of myself I was to know that I could protect myself if in danger, but appreciate the beauty of my surroundings when I wasn’t. Even at night, I experienced hyenas, wild bores, snakes, etc., but, unlike when I hiked the Appalachian Trail, I realized: how could nature and living in the wilderness be such a fearful and foreign place? Something so natural, yet seemingly uncomfortable, in relation to the bustling city.

What was your favorite thing about living in Israel?

Realizing how different the perception of Israel is in relation to how it’s perceived via U.S. propaganda. I hitchhiked quite a bit in Israel, perhaps ignorantly; however, it’s very common for the people to help one another out if they are on the side of the road or really need assistance in any way. After hitchhiking all day pre-hiking adventure, I was walking through the city, and a man spoke to me and provided me lunch and a nice conversation. He ended up taking me to a place on the beach I could sleep on that would not kick me out for sleeping over night. As skeptical as I generally am, it seemed that throughout the trip, the people provided soulful guidance.

How did the internship affect your career or life plans?

This trip further helped me see the importance of travel as a lifestyle and knowing that wherever you go, there will be an opportunity for you if you look hard enough.

How did MCA prepare you for this internship?

MCA helped me obtain the funding for the trip, and provided excitement for pursuing my goals.

What advice would you have for students who want to pursue a similar internship?

Of all the things to focus on, it is most important to do the uncomfortable. To do the things that are so different from what you do everyday, that it almost seems unrealistic. Once you realize how capable of an individual you are to pursue the unknown, the possibilities in this world are infinite. Actions precede feelings. I can choose to feel afraid anywhere, in my home, on the streets, in the middle of the woods, but if you aren’t living in excitement but instead living with a false sense of security, are you truly living?

What’s your dream job after graduation?

The dream job is one that isn’t a job at all, but instead a way of living. It’s important to realize that humans aren’t meant for a monopathic lifestyle or narrowed-discipline, but a polymathic lifestyle. As a child, we grow up creating and desiring a wide variety of interests, but slowly they become narrowed down to one routine. It’s important to keep this investigative and creative child within all of us as a base for living and to pair it with the discerned and skeptic eye. Eventually, I would like to form an independent schooling system that focuses on integrating the relationship of courses and teaches each student the significance of expertise in various subjects, similar to that of the Renaissance Man and Aristotelian style methods. With lesser knowledge comes greater fear, and if you make the action to pursue your passion while eliminating your inhibitions, you can do anything.


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