From TikTok Dreams to Reality: A Summer to Remember in Lake Powell, Arizona

Sofia DiCastelnuovo, a senior Biological Sciences major with a minor in Sustainability Science, shares how she went from scrolling on TikTok in New Jersey to spending a full summer in Lake Powell, Arizona. 

If you are looking for a sign to travel: this story is for you. Sofia DiCastelnuovo is a transfer student from another four-year university that was not the right fit for her. She declared a Biological Sciences major right away because she knew she loved science and the environment. She came to Rowan for the opportunity for a fresh start and guidance on how to combine her passion with a career. 

Zion National Park, Utah - Angel’s Landing Hike
Zion National Park, Utah – Angel’s Landing Hike

Unfortunately, Sofia did not get a traditional experience her first semester here as everyone was sent home due to Covid-19.

“After getting sent home and having time to really think about things, I was feeling really stuck in place. Covid made me realize that I wanted to strive to do more in the future. I really started thinking about what my next steps were after quarantine and how I could combine my passion with my coursework,” Sofia says.

Like many of us, Sofia spent a lot of time on TikTok during isolation. Her “For You” page wasn’t filled with viral dances or whipped coffee recipes, though. She realized that her algorithm was sending her a sign she needed to receive. 

“I was scrolling scrolling on TikTok and saw all of these travel videos of people at national parks or these beautiful remote locations. I found this website called ‘Coolworks’ through those videos, which is a database that displays seasonal work opportunities in all different places around the country,” Sofia explains.

Arches national park
Arches National Park, Utah

This got Sofia thinking: maybe traveling and seeing new places could give her clarity on what she wanted to do in the future as a career. She says, “I was unsure of what I wanted to do with my biology major, but I thought traveling would allow me to immerse myself in a different environment while also learning new things.” 

Rather than dreaming about traveling or working in a new place, Sofia started taking the steps to do it. “I started applying everywhere. I had no place in mind, I just cast my net wide and hoped for the best,” she says.

Luckily for Sofia, a company from Lake Powell, Arizona called her within a few weeks for a phone interview. They offered Sofia a position at the end of that phone call.

Sofia at Zion National Park.
Sofia at Zion National Park

“I never thought I’d go to the desert of all places. It was completely out of my comfort zone, so I took some time to think about it, but ultimately accepted the offer a few days later.”

Sofia accepted a position at Wahweap Rental Marina, where she helped visitors rent houseboats, kayaks, jet skis and other small boats on Lake Powell. 

“I worked as a rental agent in the office, which was my first time doing anything like that,” she says. “I got to meet different people traveling from all over the world every single day. They provided employees with housing where we could cook, eat, and even exercise at the fitness center. Any time we weren’t working was our time to explore.”

Lake Powell
Lake Powell, Utah

“I got to visit five national parks, but Zion National Park was my favorite. It was beautiful. I hiked Angels Landing and the Narrows, which were places on my bucket list from TikTok. It was cool to hike places that I had only ever seen through a phone screen. The videos didn’t do them justice.” 

Sofia came back to New Jersey at summer’s end with a new mindset. “The trip made me realize everyone has their own path. I always questioned what my future held and put so much pressure on myself. I met so many people doing seasonal work (high schoolers, college students, retired people etc.) who were doing the exact same thing as me. Not only am I able to put this valuable experience on my resume, I was able to learn a lesson I really needed to: it’s ok to figure it out as you go.”

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Story by:
Loredonna Fiore, senior public relations and advertising major

Photos courtesy of:
Sofia DiCastelnuovo, senior biological sciences major

Header photo courtesy of:
Pixabay

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