This program opened my eyes to how big this world really is. SFS instilled in me the confidence to feel comfortable traveling throughout the world and encountering a wide range of cultures and experiences.
SFS PROGRAM: Coastal Studies | Baja Mexico | Spring 2001
HOME SCHOOL WHILE AT SFS: Tufts University
CURRENT POSITION: Research Associate, Urban Harbors Institute at the University of Massachusetts – Boston
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE OR MOST STRIKING SFS MEMORY?
I remember my first panga trip on the bay adjacent to our field station, Bahia Magdalena. We were looking for gray whales, and one surfaced right next to our panga. This was my first time seeing a whale, and I could not believe its size and strength. Needless to say, I was more than excited. I always thought that, in theory, I would like to work in the marine science field, and I took a number of marine science courses in college. But seeing whales in the wild confirmed that I wanted to dedicate my life to preserving their natural habitat.
LOOKING BACK, WHAT DID YOU GAIN FROM YOUR TIME AT SFS?
So much. I gained real experience working in the marine science field. Instead of learning from textbooks, we went out on boats almost every day and learned first-hand about the marine environment and the issues impacting our oceans and coasts. We experienced it all, including the “highs” of field work (e.g. seeing amazing creatures in the wild and being on the ocean every day), and the “lows” of field work (e.g. seasickness, sunburns, and VERY bumpy panga rides – ouch).
I also learned about a different culture, and how communities interact with and depend upon their surrounding environment. I learned that it is critical for the local community’s experience, knowledge, and priorities to be central to all environmental decision-making processes; a lesson which I still use today in my current job.
Studying abroad with SFS also sparked my interest in international travel. SFS was my first time living outside of the United States. This program opened my eyes to how big this world really is. Since SFS, I have lived in Costa Rica, and traveled extensively throughout Europe, Mexico, Central America, Australia, and South America. SFS instilled in me not only an un-tameable “travel bug,” but also the confidence to feel comfortable traveling throughout the world and encountering a wide range of cultures and experiences.
Finally, the people I met on this study abroad program are still some of my best friends today. We shared such a unique and FUN experience together, that we are all bonded for life. We learned how to live and work together as a team, and had a lot of fun along the way.
WHAT WAS ONE OF YOUR FAVORITE SPOTS YOU EXPLORED DURING YOUR SFS PROGRAM?
A few days after we arrived in Baja, we went on a camping trip to Estero Banderitas. I was a little nervous about camping out on a deserted beach with people I just met. The first morning on Estero Banderitas, I woke up early and peeked outside of my tent. I saw the most beautiful sunrise I have ever seen in my life. Prior to arriving in Baja, I wondered if I should have chosen a more standard type of study abroad program. At that moment, I knew I made the right decision in choosing SFS.
DID SFS CONTRIBUTE TO WHERE YOU ENDED UP?
YES, definitely. I may have pursued a different path if I had not fallen in love with the marine science field while with SFS. SFS also provided me with field experience, which was critical when I applied for jobs after college.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO A PROSPECTIVE SFS STUDENT?
Definitely do it! It is a unique experience like no other, and I am so glad I went. It has definitely shaped who I am today.
IF YOU WERE AN ANIMAL OR PLANT, WHAT KIND WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE?
I would be a dolphin, so that I could ride on the crest of waves as they roll into shore. They look like they are having so much fun!