The Year 2019: Graduation, Europe Trip, and Coco Canary!

Hello friends,

Long-time no blog post! A LOT has happened since I last wrote about Madeline Island. Let me update you with a few BIG life updates.



After two years of taking classes, conducting research, and writing tirelessly, I am officially a University of Minnesota master’s graduate. If you didn’t know, I was in the Natural Resource Science & Management (NRSM) Program studying Environmental Education and Program Evaluation. My research was conducted at the Bell Museum, Minnesota’s Natural History Museum (and my workplace). I studied visitor awareness-making and meaning-making. If you want to learn more about what I did for the last two years, you can find my thesis published online at ProQuest. If you don’t have the permissions to use ProQuest, then that’s okay. I’ll include a link to the PDF below. Honestly, the ProQuest version has a couple typos. So, best to use my updated copy anyway! You can find my monster of a thesis here: Does Awareness-Making Elicit Meaning-Making in Bell Museum Visitors? A Mixed-Methods Study of a Natural History Moose Exhibit

To be completely real with you all, graduate school had some really lovely ups, but it also had some tremendous downs. As with obtaining any kind of college degree, it is no small feat, and mine was no exception. Taking classes, working as a teaching assistant or research assistant to waive tuition costs, conducting research, writing my thesis, and working part-time as an educator at both the Bell Museum and at L.L.Bean made these last two years unbelievably hectic. I am relieved to be done with school, but there are times when I kind of miss it too. Below are some of my best memories of graduate school:

  • Taking long walks on the beautiful St. Paul Campus. Especially through the agricultural fields to the horse barn.
  • Being surrounded by people who are passionate about research. I kind of miss hearing people in the hallway excitedly talk about their field season and how data collection was going well.
  • Building a community within my graduate program and making some life-long friends (Go NRAGS!)
  • Having a desk by a window, which had a lamp that was hand-painted by my Mom and brother. Working late nights were rough, but having that lamp cheered me up.
  • Lining up during graduation, cheering for friends, and finally getting that degree. My friends and family were there to cheer me on too, which warmed my heart.

If you are interested in going to graduate school, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me with questions. ESPECIALLY if you want to apply for the NRSM program.



Less than a week after I submitted my thesis to the University of Minnesota, Mike and I were on a plane to Barcelona, Spain. It was a bit of a whirlwind trip. We traveled to five countries in two weeks!

Barcelona (Spain) –> Begur (Spain) –> Girona (Spain) –> Lyon (France) –> High Fens Natural Park (Belgium) –> Aachen (Germany) –> Utrecht (Netherlands)

Even though the trip was short, we had some amazing moments. We visited cool tourist sites, spent time in nature, and got to catch up with good friends. I plan to write individual blog posts about each country, but for now, I’ll sum up some of the best parts.

  • Staying with Mike’s Spanish friend, Kons, and joining her to a Queer Women Voices Conference. It was our first night in Europe, and listening to amazing musicians was a great way to start the trip.
  • Hiking along Costa Brava to a secluded beach and swimming in the Mediterranian Sea just outside of Begur, Spain.
  • Watching the sunset over the Pyrenees Mountains in Girona, Spain.
  • Picnicking in a park and meeting with Michael’s climbing friends for dinner in Lyon, France
  • Camping and spending time with my dear friend, Irina, just outside of Belgium’s High Fens Natural Park.
  • Getting a local tour of Aachen (Germany), eating delicious German food, and drinking beer with Irina and her friends.
  • Biking through the Netherlands ‘ countryside and swimming in a man-made lake.
  • Attending a friend’s wedding in Utrecht and wearing a fabulous green dress

SPOILER ALERT: Mike and I took footage of our trip, and I’m making a short film. I will hopefully have it done soon!



Some of you may not know, but I’m in a band! My friend, Matthew Hope—a very talented singer, songwriter, and guitarist—and I started it almost two years ago. We call our band Coco Canary. Nearly a decade ago, Matt was knee-deep in the indie music business. He was playing all around town, and his music was even played on the local radio station, The Current. Unfortunately, due to unexpected life events, he had to step away from the music scene

Fast forward to two years ago. My friend, Jim, invited Matt to one of my Halloween parties. I asked folks to bring instruments to the party because I had planned for there to be a big jam session. Near the end of the night, all my friends and I got into a circle and started to jam. After a few songs, Matt offered to play some tunes. When he began to play, I was impressed, and I really enjoyed his music style. A couple days after the party, Mike and I were chatting over breakfast. He mentioned that he thought Matt and I would jive well musically and that we should try to jam with him again—and, to be completely honest, Mike had the hope that Matt and I would make a killer children’s album!

It was about a week later when Mike and I were in Matt’s living room. We chatted a bit, and Mike even brought up the children’s album idea. Matt was intrigued and asked me to play a tune. I started off the jam with playing Somewhere Over the Rainbow by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole with my ukulele. When I was finished, the first thing that Matt said was, “Molly, do you want to make a million bucks with me?” And the rest is history!

Coco Canary - Seward Cafe

Coco Canary opening for Union Shakedown and Papa Bleu & The Fistbump Congress at the Seward Cafe

If you want to hear some of our music, then you can either go to my blog’s NEW Music page or to our band’s SoundCloud webpage. I’ll also include the tracks below.

We have two tracks recorded at the moment. The first track is called Leave The Life You Know and is a Matthew Hope original. It tells a bittersweet tale about the difficulties of leaving home. This was recorded by Mike in his home studio.

The second one is called Black Tea Nights, and it’s also a Matthew Hope original. It is about living in the city and how one spends their time during those lonely nights. The recording below is a rough take and was recorded on my iPhone.

Leave The Life You Know

Black Tea Nights

I’ll keep in touch. Look for more posts about Europe and updates about Coco Canary!

Much love,


2 Comments on “The Year 2019: Graduation, Europe Trip, and Coco Canary!

  1. Pingback: Spain: Barcelona, Begur, & Girona | Molly's Journey to the West

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