Xander Covert: Not Having a Life Plan Means Saying Yes

Outdoor portrait of Aliaya Williams, on a bright sunny day.

For Xander Covert, becoming the documentarian for Prof. Walt Hakala’s winter trip to India was a bit of a happy accident. His Honors Colloquium TA recommended him to Prof. Hakala as someone who might be interested and could contribute to digital media surrounding the trip. A day after his TA told him about the opportunity, Xander found himself meeting with Walt and agreeing to go on the trip.

Six months later, he was in India with Prof. Hakala, an adjunct faculty member and several other students Prof. Hakala had recruited, camera in hand. “My favorite part of the trip overall was exploring, especially the wells and well systems, seeing what was built 450 years ago and the innovation at the time.” The experience was bittersweet, however—the step wells are no longer regarded as the beautiful things they are, and people have begun to trash them, quite literally, which has also led to water quality issues.

Luckily, several NGOs in India have begun raising awareness and working towards cleaning up the well systems. Now Xander hopes to put the thousands of pictures he took on the trip to good use by making websites for these NGOs so that people in India and all across the world can learn about the work these organizations are doing to clean up the wells and ensure that people living in those areas have access to clean water. Through his photography, Xander will help tell these organizations’ stories.

Looking back, Xander sees how valuable this trip was and the opportunities that have grown from it, including continuing to work with Prof. Hakala on these websites. As a sophomore with two majors and a minor, he readily admits he doesn’t know what he wants to do after he graduates. “I don’t have a life plan, which is why I said yes to this trip. I have no idea what I want to do. But I love photography so I thought, why not. I like to be involved and I want to experience as much of UB as possible and as much of life as possible because I don’t know what I want to do. The more that I do, the more I put my name out there for more opportunities to come my way, then the greater likelihood I have of finding something I want to do for the rest of my life.”

Pursuing experiences like Xander does is a great way to see what’s out there and to find out what you like (and don’t like)! Experiential learning isn’t just for people who know what careers they want to pursue—it’s especially for people who want to explore and find a good fit. Come visit the ELN in 17 Norton to talk to our friendly staff about what kinds of experiences could help you explore and find your way!

Written by Amanda Hellwig ‘19