BY COLIN MACDOUGALL
Behind the desk of Washtenaw Community College’s Counseling and Career Planning Center sat Caitlin Dudzik, who was recently selected for once-in-a-lifetime experience to work in the Antarctic. After being told on Oct. 7 that she received the position, barely a week later she was boarding an airplane.
Dudzik, a 27-year-old Ypsilanti resident, considers Antarctica to be “the Olympics of research.”
“I look to get experience out of this trip. I want to see everything and meet a whole bunch of new people,” Dudzik said. “All these nations come together just for research and hopefully learn from them.”
Dr. John Rinke, director of Support Services and Dudzik’s supervisor, hired her into her current position.
“I think that she is wonderful employee… she does a great job at front getting students into see a counselor or getting them to the place they should be instead,” Rinke said. He advised Dudzik before her next big adventure: “Just to have a good time.”
Janine Shahinian, counseling and career planning administrative assistant at WCC, has worked alongside Dudzik since February. She says that she’s happy for Dudzik and wishes her well as she pursues her dreams, desires and goals.
“She is extremely resourceful, very bright, a quick learner and she can pick up information quickly. She knows how to look things up and do whatever it takes to find the answer,” Shahinian said. “Those are the skills that she used to get the job in Antarctica.”
Shahinian looks forward to reading her blog, just like she enjoyed reading the one about Dudzik’s previous adventure to the Pacific island Johnston Atoll.
Dudzik had completed a degree in Aviation Flight Technology from Eastern Michigan University before going to the Pacific. She worked as a flight dispatcher working midnights.
“I was working midnights and I couldn’t do it. I ended up just quitting my job and had saved up enough money to prepare for a long application process of trying to find cool and adventurous jobs,” Dudzik said. “It took me six months….I was sent to Hawaii and lived there for a month… I took a three day boat ride to the island. I lived in a tent with no toilets, I had to bathe in the ocean and I did that for seven months.”
Dudzik volunteered for the fish and wildlife service last year and lived on an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean for seven months with four other people. According to Dudzik, that trip solidified her adventurous side.
“I had major culture shock when I got back, it’s loud here. I could hear the humming of the lights and so many people… It was intense. Once I got over that I started looking for jobs and I found this one here at the Counseling Center.”
Although she had only been with WCC since February, because of her ambitious nature, she decided to apply for a job in Antarctica – inspired by a documentary she had recently seen. Just a Google search later, she found numerous companies looking for people.
Now, through Pacific Architects and Engineers Incorporated, Dudzik will be working as an air transportation specialist for Lockheed Martin, an American global aerospace, defense, security and advanced technologies company. Essentially, she’s making sure that cargo is packaged correctly and reaches its destination for researchers.
“PAE deals with finding people for missions all around the world for these companies like Lockheed Martin,” Dudzik said.
She explained that Antarctica is under an international treaty and one can only conduct research. There’s no one nation that can go in there for profit looking to drill for oil. People who work there are doing research like ice sampling, global warming studies and an observatory for astronomy, according to Dudzik.
However, Dudzik noted that during her time there, there will be sunlight 24 hours a day She will be in Antarctica for their summer season which spans from August to February.
“I want to go everywhere and I love to travel,” Dudzik said. “I don’t like to pay for it, so you got to find those interesting ways of getting out there.”