First Impressions of SFS Turks & Caicos Islands

Posted: September 14, 2015

Why did you choose to study abroad with SFS?
I have wanted to go into field research since high school, but growing up in the Midwest gave me very little real, “hands-on” experience. When I heard about The School for Field Studies from an alumnus of the Turks & Caicos program, I knew SFS would provide me with experience I so badly wanted and needed. There weren’t many other programs quite like this with stations in amazing areas including not only qualified but experienced staff.

Another aspect of the program that caught my attention is the community outreach portion. Most of the sites of SFS are in developing countries and communities. A majority of the research every student in SFS participates in goes towards helping the community in which their program is located. When I was considering SFS and a few other programs for going abroad, SFS stood out to me because it was clear that our scientific and community research go hand-in-hand. It allows for a more balanced “hands-on” experience.

What are your first impressions of the country?
First and foremost, the Turks & Caicos Islands are absolutely beautiful! The SFS program is on South Caicos, which is slightly less developed than some of the other islands in the TCI chain. The infrastructure is good enough to get by for locals and SFS, but there are parts of town where the infrastructure is lacking. The struggle TCI and, South Caicos specifically, face with maintaining infrastructure despite hurricanes and other natural disasters is apparent.

The locals, or “belongers,” are all very nice! When walking past them on the street most want to stop and greet you–asking your name and where you are from. The other night I was waiting in line at a restaurant in town and one of the locals asked me if I liked the island (obviously my answer was yes). He then proceeded to sincerely apologize for the mosquitos and heat, as if he had any control over it. It’s very clear that the islanders want SFS students to enjoy the island and really take the time to get to know the students and staff from SFS.

What are your first impressions of the field station?
I feel the need to preface my description with the fact that the station has been converted from the first and most historical hotel on the island. The field station is on a little hill on the edge of town, providing a gorgeous view of the ocean. That’s the first thing I noticed and I instantly fell in love. It’s also located in a very convenient spot where it’s close enough to town and even closer to the water. My room is much bigger than I was expecting and I room with five other girls in bunk beds. There is a bathroom in the room as well, complete with a shower, toilet, and sink.

Our dining area is big and open so you have a beautiful view of the ocean from anywhere you sit. There are school flags hung up all around this area too, with signatures of SFS alumni and their program date. It’s a little piece of home in our new home for the next few months. There’s also a pretty big pool where I have spent multiple hours working on my open water SCUBA diving certification, which is also great for relaxing or teaching the local kids how to swim during community outreach.

What do you think the biggest challenge will be for you this semester both academically and culturally?
Academically, I think one of the biggest challenges will be identifying fish while diving/snorkeling. Culturally, I think getting used to conserving fresh water will be a bit difficult. However, I know it will also be rewarding knowing that I’m contributing in some way to conserve one of the limited resources on the island.

What are you looking forward to the most about the semester?
I’m really looking forward to getting my Open Water SCUBA certification! I’m also looking forward to immersing myself in the community and getting a better sense of their values and culture.

Give three words that best describe how you are feeling right now.
Excited, busy, and intrigued.