Below I will outline six different projects that an aspiring geographer could work on in order to enter themselves into the field, depending on personal interests.
1. National Geographic’s Young Explorers ProgramNational Geographic has provided a fantastic opportunity for young geographers between the ages of 18-25. This program provides funding (usually $2000-5000 as a complementary fund to a more extensive plan) for a project that engages in either research or exploration. Past Young Explorers have participated in trips like researching reptiles in the Florida Everglades and kite-sailing across Greenland’s icecap. Program officials are looking for applicants that have prior experience in either research or the method of exploration that is planned on. Visit the Young Explorer’s application page to read more information and requirements. This is truly a remarkable opportunity for those passionate about geography, and although the program is competitive, it is worth trying for.
2. Submissions of Photos and ArticlesBecause photography is an integral part of documenting many kinds of endeavors in geography, consider developing the craft and submitting your photos to journals, magazines, newspapers, and websites that focus on travel, recreation, exploration, or anything relating to geography. This will give you practice in refining your skills and give you a portfolio of companies that have accepted your work. Along with photography, consider practicing writing and submitting either articles, comments, or short journals to the same kinds of sources. National Geographic features photos submitted by both amateur and professional photographers alike, and shows no preference for those with experience, only talent.
3. Personal Traveling and JournalingAlthough you are not getting paid to travel and write about the experience, this doesn’t have to stop you from practicing. Next time you are on vacation or even exploring areas in your own backyard, keep a record of your experience. Read your favorite travel journal and practice writing in their style. Journal the highlights of your trip, the things you would do different next time, recommendations for others, and the budget/itinerary. Always keep your eyes open for submission forms in magazines and online.
4. Create a Blog and Consider Focusing on a Specific Element of GeographyBlogging has a large role in today’s communication, and it is also the easiest way for an amateur to gather an audience and become an expert on a specific topic. If you focus in- depth on one thing (for example: recent natural disasters and analysis), your readers will return to your blog for updates when they want to learn about that specific topic. When you branch out to include a wider array of topics, link to other blogs or sites that cover that topic. Providing links to more information, including evidence of research, and utilizing popular search words are some keys that will lead to success for your blog.
5. Humanitarian Expeditions and Fundraising.Embarking on a service trip is a great way to participate in the activities and lifestyle of many geographers. To do this you can either search for volunteer groups and participate in one of their humanitarian trips, or you can network with friends and family to find non-profits or even local communities that need volunteers. If you are short on funding, you can always find local volunteer work within your own country or state, instead of going abroad. Always consider fundraising when planning a humanitarian trip. Fundraising is an important skill for many professions, including geographers if they are in a field such as humanitarian relief. Write letters to local businesses and newspapers, host a dinner or event, and campaign for the cause that you will be specifically working for (such as building or teaching at schools in the location you are visiting). Remember to journal your experience like a professional, and to take good photographs.
6. Network with Geography Professors and Class VisitorsChances are, if you are interested in geography enough, you may be studying it in school or at least have or will take a few classes. If this is the case, take advantage of the experience that your professors have. Most of them have worked elsewhere in the field before becoming a professor. Find out about their experiences, where they have worked, and who they know. If you impress them during the course of your association, they may have a recommendation or an introduction to something or someone that could benefit you. Just remember to always be genuine, sincere, and respectful.
Any of these six options could provide real experience with making yourself into a geographer. Again, don’t wait around for an official title and job, start doing the things that a geographer does and build up valuable experience while doing it. Aspiring geographers should take advantage of the opportunities around them.