Posted: September 30, 2011

Name: Sophie Wasserman
School: Vassar College
Major: Environmental Studies

Why did you choose to study abroad with SFS?
I chose to study with SFS for two reasons. First, my school would accept a biology credit from SFS.  Second, and more important, I wanted to do a program on the water where I could also learn about a place. Many marine science programs visit different areas through the semester and I think that actually spending three months, really living in a place is such an essential part of studying abroad. The scientific aspect is fantastic but would mean so much less to me without putting our research into the context of the community around us. A lot of what we’re learning in class is focused on new ways of thinking about marine systems and including the community into management plans. In this program, we get to put these ideas into practice!
What were your first impressions of the Turks and Caicos?
As everyone has been saying, my main first impression is that all of the people on the island are so nice! My amazement at this may stem from going to school in New York where smiling on the street is considered a little…off, but people are incredibly friendly here. I’ve only met a small portion of the community; however, all of the other students and the staff members have commented on how welcoming the community is as a whole. This friendliness seems to me to be a big part of the local culture, which makes sense, looking at some aspects such as the large Christian community and the high number of immigrants from Haiti and the Dominican Republic that live on the island. I do wonder about how welcoming they will continue to be if the historically healthy fisheries start to fully collapse.

What were your first impressions of  The SFS Center for Marine Resource Studies?
This field station is much more comfortable that I imagined it would be! The staff keeps commenting on how lucky we are to be at a field station with variation in what we’re eating and even toilets. Pure luxury! The moment I look at that clear blue water, any discomfort floats away in the soft breeze drifting through….

What do you think the biggest challenge will be for you this semester both academically and culturally?
I’ll need to challenge myself to really engage with the community. I can be shy when interacting with people, especially when we have different backgrounds. However, given how friendly everyone is, I’m not too worried anymore! Memorizing all of the organisms in the areas we’re studying will be the most challenging academic aspect for me. All studying is difficult when you could go swimming instead!

What are you looking forward to the most about the semester?
This is such a hard question to answer!  I’m looking forward to the diving, to getting to know everyone in the Center and the community, to getting a better idea of what marine research entails…to everything!  I guess I’m looking forward most to spending the next three months on this amazing island!

Give three words that best describe how you are feeling right now.
Completely at peace.