At the beginning of the fall semester, we asked student Noel Simms about her first impressions of the Turks and Caicos Islands. Now, as the semester comes to a close, she shared her thoughts with us again.
What did you like most about the SFS experience?
As cliché as it sounds, the center is not a home without its people…and dogs :). The SFS experience is about the people who you experience the incredible new place with. In my case, it has been about 23 students, super fun and kind interns, and the most compassionate professors and staff, all from different corners of the world, on one small island in the middle of the ocean. It has been a whirlwind of sunshine, seawater, diving, field work, puppies, early mornings, cakes, and movie nights. The total 100 days and everything that came with them is what I like most about the SFS experience.
You’ve been in the country for a full semester – tell us your impressions of it now.
My first impression of South Caicos is also my lasting impression. The Belongers (locals) are so kind and welcoming always. I love going for walks at night when everyone is out and about, enjoying the warm starlit nights (and swatting mosquitoes), greeting one another with a wave, saying “Goodnight, goodnight”. The small community is close-knit and often gets together for many fun occasions, inviting all of us to join in.
The islands of the TCI themselves are so unique and beautiful, with different “personalities” and traits. The blue sea seems to get bluer by the day, and the adventures and hidden treasures of our small island never ceased throughout our entire time here. The quiet roads with no stop signs or traffic lights have donkeys, dogs, and horses on them, where everything and everyone is on island time. It’s incredible.
What is life at the Center really like? What are the best and the most challenging parts?
Life at the center is different in many ways. There is a set routine that everyone follows and it becomes a sort of comfort as we all eat meals together around big table for three meals a day. The best thing that happens every day in my opinion, is for sure snack time, where we all run to eat snacks like brownies, cookies, and popcorn.
I think that the most challenging part is that we are all together all of the time, getting quiet time was tricky. For me, going on snorkels and SCUBA dives has been the perfect time to just enjoy the most amazing experiences where no one had to say a word but we all knew what everyone else was thinking.
What ended up being your biggest challenge this semester both academically and culturally?
The biggest challenge this semester academically was being in the classroom when we are so close to the sea and sunshine. I had a hard time focusing some days for sure!
I think culturally the most challenging thing is communication with Belongers who speak Spanish or Creole. Language barriers can be hard but it was neat getting to practice my Spanish and everyone has been so patient with one another to really try and communicate. It’s a challenge but not an impossible obstacle.
What is the best memory you have from the semester? Give some highlights.
Oh man, there are so many. 100 days is a long time to make lasting memories. One night in particular from our first month in TCI comes to mind though.
On a night that was dark and quiet with a warm breeze, a group of us were walking along a white sandy beach with no one else around. There was not a cloud in the sky and the stars were brighter than you can imagine (no light pollution on South Caicos!). As we walked with our toes sinking in the sand just beneath the shallow water, little blue lights started appearing. It was as if the stars were being reflected in the ink looking water. The more we moved our feet, the more the bioluminescent plankton sparked! I cupped my hands and scooped the water, catching a twinkling little blue star in my hands. Everyone gathered around and we all ooed and awed at the impressive magic nature was showing off. We spent the whole night just watching the ocean and its glowing inhabitants, talking and getting to know one another. It was a moment I will never forget shared with people I will never forget.
Give three adjectives that best describe how you are feeling right now.
Sentimental, passionate, inspired