I recently got a chance to visit the USA for the first time during a business trip to Portland, Oregon for a forest communicators workshop. It has always been my wish to visit the USA, and they didn’t disappoint.
Impressions about the USA based on a visit to Oregon
The natural beauty of Oregon is amazing. Forests, mountains, rivers, the coast, the list could go on. I spent 2 days driving around and taking in the sights and that wasn’t nearly enough. Oregon is home to the World forestry center, which might seem a bit presumptuous at first, but when you get a chance to travel there, you’ll see why – Oregon lives, breathes and dreams forests.
In the USA, everything seems bigger and grander than in Europe. The cars, the roads … even the people :) (but that really wasn’t apparent in Portland). Their state parks are amazing. I’ve visited a few in my short time here and was blown away by their size and especially how well-done their forest and nature interpretation infrastructure is. I really admire the level of forest communications of US Forest Service and Oregon State Parks service are on.
The other thing that really stood out to me was that people were really positive. They will go out of their way to help you out and are very talkative, outgoing and proud. Proud of their land, proud of their city, proud of themselves. They also smile a lot and go out of their way to make other people feel good. This is a major difference from Europe, where people tend to be more introverted and cynical and it is frankly quite a nice change.
The main reason of my visit was to make a presentation about the communications and dissemination activities of the LIFEGENMON project. I was a little uneasy about presenting in the USA, because had the notion that their educational system and way of living make the average American very good at public speaking. While this assumption was correct, most presentations were on-par (as they should be considering that we were part of a communicators workshop). Looking back, I also have a good feeling about mine.
The workshop was a great learning and networking opportunity. The presentations at the workshops were informative and often contained great tips that I will use in future work. On the last day, there was a field trip to Mount St. Helen’s, which was amazing. The field trip itself was a best practice example on how to organize a good excursion. Getting to know other professionals in forest communications was great. In Slovenia, there are just a few of us working in this field and meeting the people in this group opened up all kinds of ideas and opportunities going forward.
- The USA is different from Europe. My first taste left me craving for more and I’m sure I’ll come back at some point.
- The Forest communicators workshop was beneficial in all kinds of ways.
- The US Forest Service made a great job on making me feel at home, even when they didn’t know I was a part of the international group of visitors. Thank you.
- I’ll probably remember Jack the one-eyed horned owl (see below) long after the trip is over. I met him in the Mt Hood ranger’s station where he often greets visitors.