It’s hard to believe that in little more than one month this once-in-a-lifetime journey here on South Caicos will end. Reflecting on the wonderful experiences I have had so far, I realize how fortunate I have been to be able to cross many items off my Turks and Caicos bucket list, including seeing eagle rays, flamingos, turtles, and sharks; becoming an Advanced Open Water certified SCUBA diver; learning how to play dominos (the local favorite game); and visiting islands throughout Turks and Caicos.
Additionally, this program puts emphasis on reaching out to others in the area, therefore, I have been able to interact and engage with the locals. I am able to do this every Saturday when our Center holds a “Community Outreach Day,” when anyone from the community can come partake in activities. Whether it is making artistic items out recycled materials at the craft table or playing softball with kids in the community, it is rewarding to see a smile on their faces and know we are making a positive impact on South Caicos.
The term “eco-friendly” reaches new heights on this island. Laundry is washed by hand with saltwater, no printing is allowed, and students are encouraged to take only one freshwater shower a week. Now, regarding the shower situation… most people might think “gross” or “that’s crazy”; it really isn’t that bad! We are able to take saltwater showers outside under the clear starry skies or take “mermaid baths” where we jump in the ocean and bathe (using biodegradable soap of course). Because the program implements sustainable practices, I’ve pushed myself to reduce the amount of natural resources I use.
It is halfway through the program and I have learned a great deal about marine management, ecology, and social concerns relating to the ocean. What makes the Center for Marine Resource Studies and The School for Field Studies so unique is that our research projects focus on topics that provide data and advice to the local community and the government of the Turks and Caicos Islands. For example, we collected data on invasive lionfish for the Department of Environment and Maritime Affairs (DEMA). This approach to learning, I believe, better prepares me for a career devoted to environmental policy.
Indeed, my time here on the island is running out! The experiences so far have been extraordinary from a social and academic perspective. I know the last few weeks will be full of more learning and adventures that will top my study abroad experience.
Yours truly from the Big South!