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Wednesday, July 17, 2013, by Leah Nothnagel
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As we near the end of summer and everything is getting hectic and crazy; it's starting to feel surreal that in a few short weeks I'm going to be back home living my normal life. It's a bittersweet feeling; while I'm sure everyone here is like myself and misses their friends and family, the idea of us not all being together as a group is kind of heartbreaking. There is a bond formed with all the REU students, but there's more than that. There's a bond with the houses, with the research partners, with the roommates.... For people who were strangers only 8 weeks ago, who came from all over the country, from different cultures, climates, and even age groups, we came together and for one summer became like family.

I honestly think that there might be a scientific question in that, how you can throw 26 complete strangers in 2 houses together and expect them to get along. Honestly, it was effortless, not only did we get along... we thrived together. Between volleyball (which we improved at tenfold over the summer), lap tag, ultimate frisbee, camping, movie nights, truth or dare (you're never too old), assassins (which is as scary and incredible as it sounds) and too many evolving inside jokes to count, this summer has been trying at times but unforgettable none the less. Even in the most hectic and crazy times, which is almost all the time now that we are nearing the end.... I laugh every day. We always find a way to have fun, and in the most stressful times we help each other out. I can honestly say that a lot of the people I've met during my time here are people that I will always consider true friends.

I know that we're all here for research, and while I took a lot away from that experience what I really learned here at Harvard Forest didn't come from my research; it came from my peers. I learned more about ecology from the brilliant and wonderful people around me then I ever could from a textbook or professor. Not just ecology either - I've learned so much about such a great expanse of things. There is so much I'll take away from my time here.

This picture was taken when we all went out to watch the Bruins during their fight for the Stanley Cup.....It ended up going into triple overtime and went on late into the night, during which we played pool, had a lot of fun, and we were all VERY tired the next morning. This picture honestly feels like a lifetime ago, but it was such a great night. It was one of my favorite memories of this summer, and one of those nights I won't soon forget.

To any future REU students I have this to say – It can be nerve racking to come here, but once you're here the people surrounding you make it home. 

Leah Nothnagel

Quirky Q&A with Leah

What is the first word that comes to mind when I say the word "awesome?"

Possum. It rhymes.... Plus they're nocturnal which also answers the question: What nocturnal animal would you be if you had to choose and why? It rhymes with awesome. You really can't go wrong there.

If you could get rid of all the songs from a particular singer, whose would you delete and why?

Anything Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus, Bon Jovi, Creed, Nickelback, and also Bruno Mars' song "I'd catch a grenade for ya." I'm sorry Bruno, I don't believe you.

What's the ultimate road trip car?

The back to the future car.... it's pretty self explanatory as to why: you can go on a road trip THROUGH TIME. 

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