Hitch 1 Nine strangers. One house. Many water bottles. And so many hugs. It could easily be summarized as this for our first week of training in Nashville, TN for SCA’s Army Corps of Engineer’s Visitor Use Survey Program. We started off with a bang, hosting the three teams (Nashville, TN, Cumming, GA and Waco, TX) in a modest little home tucked in the funky neighborhood in East Nashville. Although the house was synonymous to Home Alone’s opening scene of Christmas Day scramble, we had a method to our madness and everyone was just happy to be there, getting to know our fellow SCAers in close quarters, playing board games with furious passion, and talking late into the night about our previous experiences in conservation. The first week of orientation was held at James Percy Priest Visitor’s Center, where Alex, Josiah and Liz taught us the ins and outs of SCA. It was an incredibly informative week, where we did everything from re-thinking our conservation ethics, to role-playing conflict resolution scenarios, to embracing diversity and mastering the ultimate feeling of confusion when it comes to paylocity. For me personally, having no prior experience with SCA, I felt incredibly welcomed and reassured that I would get everything with time. Everyone was incredibly supportive and would lend a helping hand. The group seemed to really bond during this week of orientation, our fearless Project Leaders Sophie (Nashville), Leah (Cumming), and Josh (Waco), all mentoring the members with their invaluable leadership experiences, which came in handy once Friday rolled around; the house transforming into a haven for us as we put our heads down and completed our Work Portfolios for the Spring. The Work Portfolios are conservation projects that each member of each team designs to fulfill the “core competencies.” The “core competencies” that we are focusing on fall under the four pillars of SCA’s mission statement: Conservation (ecological literacy, conservation history, conservation ethic), Leadership (risk management, leadership development, work readiness), Service (technical skills, project management, reflection), and Stewardship (diversity and inclusion, civic engagement, ecosystem engagement). Using these pillars as guidance to give our ideas direction, we completed at least four project proposals each to work on for the duration of the spring program. As the survey periods will be conducted during the week, we are given one day a week to work on our projects and to fulfill SCA’s mission “to build the next generation of conservation leaders and inspire lifelong stewardship of our environment and communities by engaging young people in hands-on service to the land.” The week finished with a day off on Saturday, where the 9 strangers had by then become friends, and everyone took the opportunity to soak in the sights of Music City. Some of us went on bike rides while others checked out the downtown area. Fun was had all around, and it was great to relax and enjoy our time together before everyone had to leave for their respective SCA homes in a couple of days. Sunday and Monday were the days when the Army Corps of Engineers (ACE) came into the picture. We started the day meeting Meredith, Dina and Matt, whom we (the Nashville Team) will be working with during the Visitor Use Survey Program. We went over the surveys, familiarizing ourselves with the questions and getting comfortable with different scenarios. Some of the rangers that sat in on the meetings even role-played for us, acting our different characters that we might run across at our different sites- that was one of the most entertaining parts of the day. We also had a chance to travel to two of the sites, setting up the cones and signs so we would know how to do it when Day 1 officially rolled around. We ended that day with a furious relay on the playground, where we got to run around a bit after a productive day in the field. That night we had our farewell dinner, Sophie finishing off her marathon-week of cooking us all dinner with her Guatemalan breakfast- if you haven’t had this it is amazing, and we were all unbuttoning our pants by the end of the meal. Tuesday morning came too soon, and each team bid us farewell in their own ways: Waco piling into their car with relaxed waves of goodbye, Cumming rambunctiously picking people up in the air. Sophie, Mike and I stood for second, contemplating the emptiness of the house, what we would do with all that empty space. Although we were sad to see our short-lived family go, there was a feeling of excitement in the air: we would soon be starting surveys and our conservation projects, and not a moment was to be wasted. Hello Nashville, here we come! Written by Eva