Some of us are born to seek safety and routine, and there are others, to borrow from Tennyson, whose natures drive them “to seek, to find, and not to yield.” Akshay Deverakonda ’15 clearly falls into the latter camp.
This environmental biology major originally from Northern Virginia, not only takes advantage of any opportunity he’s given, but he then takes each opportunity and finds ways to go even further.
Akshay likes to say his first experience with travel abroad was really his sophomore year, when he spent a semester in the William & Mary in Washington Program and had an internship at the Environmental Protection Agency. “Before Washington, I’d never thought about study abroad,” he says.
Although it’s more difficult as a STEM student to study abroad given all the labs and requirements that often don’t correspond with the courses at a foreign institution, Akshay was encouraged by a teaching assistant in the biology department. “He’d made study abroad work as a science student.”
That TA had studied at the National University of Singapore (NUS), so after Akshay explored program options on the Reves Center website, he knew that was where he wanted to go.
He credits Theresa Johansson, Assistant Director of Global Education at the Reves Center for International Studies, whom he met at the NUS program’s information session, with inspiring him and guiding him through the process. He was the only William & Mary student at NUS that semester, but instead of being intimidated or wary, he made the most of the experience. “I liked that it was challenging, outside my comfort zone,” he remembers.
He asked Johansson, “What can I do to benefit the most from this experience as a science student?” She suggested that he do a research project, so before he left the U.S., he looked on the NUS website for information on the work being done, contacted a professor studying mangroves, and lined up his project.
From that experience, he’s returned to William & Mary with a new career focus on sustainability and balancing economic and human development needs with environmental concerns. Studying how mangroves play into the issues in Malaysia surrounding deforestation and land use opened his eyes to a new challenge. “It’s not enough to think about the environment; we have to think about people.”
Akshay has returned to campus for his senior year but continues his research with the professor in Singapore and hopes to see the results published soon.
But rest assured, his explorations are ongoing. As he points out, “The more you know, the more you realize you don’t know.”