Back in the States

**First, Disclaimer: I did not make this video!! Credit to Boomer, Dr. Begin’s husband!

**also here is the link to our field blog that was kept up for the entire trip: http://www.shellbackx.org/field-course-blog

The TMEC (Tropical Marine Ecology and Conservation) course in Soufriere, Saint Lucia was not a vacation, it was a million times better than any vacation! Some people may think of a vacation as relaxing and lying on a beach somewhere, but I’m more of a morning to night adventure kind of girl. I need to always be doing something, experiencing something new. There is no way I could have experienced Saint Lucia like I did through study abroad on a vacation. Because we worked closely with a local organization, the SMMA (Soufriere Marine Management Association), not only did they allow us to house our gear in their office, which is located across the street from the boat docks, they also taxied us to all our dive sites, helped us move our gear in and out of the boats and even helped us change tanks between dives. We formed a pretty tight relationship with the SMMA rangers during our time there.

We stayed in local villas about a minute walk from the boat docks. Sonya, one of the owners of the villas was wonderful and arranged for local food to be prepared for us each night for dinner. The food was to die for, curried chicken, locally caught fish, rice, local fruits and veggies, every night! Three nights back in the states and I find myself craving the fresh full-flavored Saint Lucian cuisine.

One amazing aspect of this trip is the close relationships that formed between the 21 students. We lived together, ate meals together, went diving together, learned together, you do everything together and it the relationships formed are unique and meaningful, as you all share similar interests but have all different backgrounds. Even more enlightening are the relationships you form with the local people, who have lead lives completely different than you and may have very different views than you. Learning from different cultures is important and makes you a more understanding, tolerant, and humble person.

The transition back into American culture is not so much difficult as it is frustrating. After three days back, I find myself wanting more out of life, more than the monotony of work, school, cleaning, sleeping, repeat. I find that frustrating feeling particularly motivating, because it’s something that we each have the ability to control. I’ve set my sites on the future and the opportunities waiting for me to find them. One beautiful side effect of this entire experience is the assurance I feel in myself and what I want to do with my life. I was already passionate about the environment, the ocean, animals, coral reefs etc, but, scuba diving has opened my mind to a whole new realm of possibilities. There are endless issues that need to be addressed concerning the environment, as a student you find yourself wondering, how can I make a difference? What cause is facing the most imminent dangers? What solutions will be the most effective at countering these issues? All valid questions. This trip has pointed me in a direction I hadn’t given much thought to. I left open water certified, I came back as an AAUS scientific research diver. Now, I’m addicted, and I want diving to always be a huge part of my life. Part of my career.

As you submerge below the surface on a coral reef, you are face-to-face with an ecosystem that is home to more biodiversity than any other ecosystem on the planet. I am constantly mesmerized by vibrant colors, magnificent views, watching wildlife in their natural habitat, front row. Schools of fish engulf you like you’re not even there. The beauty that exits below the ocean surface is unparalleled, it’s a different world. Sometimes you get to witness the food chain in action and you become aware of how tiny you are in this big world; it humbles you and instills a deep respect for the power and beauty the natural world possesses and how lucky we are to experience it.

In light of my new-found motivation, I plan on pursuing my dive master certification. I contacted the dive master who certified me last year and he offered me a spot on a research vessel for a few days next week, to get a couple dives in and look at my options. It’s a great example of how opportunities are just around every corner.

#StudyAbroad #Summer2018 #SaintLucia #Soufriere #SMMA #ScientificDiving #Divemaster #Opportunities #SaveTheReefs

  1. Lori (Badour) VanO- May 25, 2018 at 8:30 am

    I can’t explain the excitement in my heart and head while reading this. You have shown all the Alex I saw way back when you were in grade school. Your wings (or fins, I might say) have spread wide and off you go! As I knew you would… making a difference. Love your spirit and soul, Alex. Swim on, girl!

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