09/04/2011 09:41 pm ET Updated Nov 04, 2011

Give a Hoot, Don't Pollute! Part 1

Saturday, September 3, 2011- Right now, as I'm writing this, I'm still a little tired, even though I slept for nine hours straight last night. There are various scratches on my arms and legs that weren't there four days ago. If I raise my arms over my head or make my hands into fists, they ache. I have blisters on both of my thumbs.

And I don't regret a thing.

I had been accepted for Boston University's First Year Student Outreach Project, or FYSOP, a program that allows freshmen to come to Boston a week early and get used to living on campus while performing community service in the greater Boston area. Since there weren't any opportunities to be a tour guide or a museum educator (the areas of community service I have the most experience in), I had signed up for the Environment track, because ecology has always been one of my passions.

My mom and I left Long Island early on Saturday, so that we could hopefully be in Massachusetts before Hurricane Irene reached the Northeast. (It turned out we were just in time, because the ferry service canceled operations the next day.) We stayed at my grandmother's house in Worcester for the weekend and thankfully avoided the worst effects of the hurricane. (It was REALLY rainy and windy, but we never lost power.)

Monday, Move-In Day- Mom and I drove into Boston and moved my things into my dorm room. I was on the Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) floor in Warren Towers. The first thing we saw when we stepped out of the elevator was a bulletin board proclaiming "Superheroes of Science!" Each of the doors was decorated with a comic book cover showing a different superheroine- and mine was the Black Widow! I really felt like I belonged here. (And the view of the Charles River out my window was absolutely stunning, especially during the day when the river was dotted with sailboats!)

After getting settled in, I met up with my group, the Woodsy Owls. (Since the theme of this year's FYSOP program was superheroes, all of the groups were named for comic book characters. Give a hoot, don't pollute!) We did some icebreaker games and learned a few of the FYSOP cheers.

Tuesday, Education Day- Most of us were pretty eager to get to work, but the next day was devoted to learning about our issue area and the environmental problems we were going to address. But it was still very illuminating and a lot of fun. We heard presentations from a representative of the Earthwatch Institute (I want to do one of their programs next summer... but I'm not sure which!), and Milo Cress, an absolutely adorable nine-year-old on a campaign to reduce the wasting of plastic by getting restaurants to offer straws to customers instead of automatically putting them in drinks. We also got to interact with live snakes, owls, frogs, and newts brought by volunteers from the Museum of Science, and saw the documentary No Impact Man. Even if we weren't able to go to the extremes the protagonist did, we were still eager to reduce our negative impacts on the environment and get started making positive impacts. But that would have to wait until the next day...