I have always known that I love to learn but being here and experiencing a new way of learning has exceeded my own expectations for myself as a student and as a scientist.
If you had told me as a High School Senior that I would have achieved my goal of doing shark-related research my mind would have been blown. Truthfully, my mind is still blown that I have been lucky enough to wake up with the ocean at my doorstep for the past few weeks. While I started this journey unsure of what was to follow since it was my first time leaving the United States that worry soon wore away. Before I even boarded my plane to Providenciales I met other students who would be on the same flight. We stayed together through customs and until our center tour was over. Despite waking up early to catch my flight and meeting new people I immediately felt at home on South Caicos. The small class size helped everybody get to know each other and we soon fell into a good rhythm.
Snorkeling in the waters around South Caicos.
Through SFS I have swum with sharks and eagle rays, explored coral reefs, and developed important research skills. Checking off boxes on my life goals list while expanding upon field and research techniques I know will come in handy. I feel confident in data management after a sea turtle and eagle ray photo ID exercise and even learned I have a superpower of being able to identify individual rays! Our third field exercise was kayaking in a mangrove where several young sharks swam right by the boats, which was just incredible! Besides the memorable marine life encounters I’ve had; I have made some good friends too. You never know who you’ll meet — I became super close with some girls who even go to school near me!
Enjoying roasting marshmallows around the bonfire at the beach.
Being in a new setting or abroad definitely does prompt you to think about your identity. I have always known that I love to learn but being here and experiencing a new way of learning has exceeded my own expectations for myself as a student and as a scientist. Learning comes in many forms and what I can take from my experience with SFS is that I will always continue to learn. I’ve learned a lot in the past weeks but something I will hold dear is that I was able to set my mind to do something, and (with support from my family, friends, and SFS) it was able to finally happen! Although it makes me sad to go home, I am beyond grateful for the time spent on this island. While I may be leaving the TCI soon, I will take with me the confidence I gained in the field, incredible friends, the furtherment of my own identity, and of course the wonderful memories.
Kayaking through the mangroves to place BRUVs (Baited Remote Underwaters Video devices).
Curious to learn a bit more about the SFS TCI Center? Click here to read about why we’re based there, our environmental research focus, how we connect and support the local community, and even take a tour of the Center.