When I was in Class VII, my teacher introduced me to “spotting" butterflies and birds; I became obsessed with it. I wandered around the neighbourhood taking photographs. Eventually, I interned at the National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS) in Bengaluru for a few weeks and later did two stints at Nature Conservation Foundation (NCF) at Valparai, Tamil Nadu to get a feel of what life in research was all about. I finished school this year and have been accepted at Stanford University for their undergraduate program where I plan to major in environmental science with a concentration in ecology. Here are three things that I recommend for every aspiring environmentalist.

Do internships

From Class IX onwards, I spent at least a few weeks every year interning with different conservation organizations. At the NIAS, I worked with Anindya Basu, helping with measurements on a project. At NCF, I worked on a rainforest nursery project. The first 10 days were spent in filling bags with mud, which was disappointing. I understood then that research isn’t glamorous—it’s tedious and methodical.

Find mentors

My first mentor was nature guide Subaraj Rajathurai, who took a group of us around as part of a movement to save the fragile ecosystem of the MacRitchie Forest in Singapore. I learnt the power of good writing from environmental journalist Arati Kumar Rao.

Network and attend events

While, attending an NCF conference, I was able to interact with the community of local wildlife workers, stakeholders and researchers.

Currently I am spending a gap year, working on different projects like designing an interactive field guide for the Singapore Rail Corridor Park.

(As told to Sonya Dutta Choudhury)