I had the opportunity to travel to San Salvador, Bahamas with a Tropical Island Ecology and Geology class over spring break (2018). The class was taught by Dr. Ford, who has been teaching classes of a similar nature and traveling to San Salvador for almost two decades; and Professor Novak, who also has extensive experience researching on the island of San Salvador. I have always been fascinated by nature. When the weather is nice I spend as much time as possible outdoors, whether it is to swim, picnic, hike, or just read. I am also a huge proponent for the benefits of immersive education. The appeal of the class for me was largely the opportunity to be hands-on with the material we would spend most of the semester learning about. I couldn’t help but feel an almost child-like excitement. The prospect of being surrounded by aquatic creatures was, and still is, incredibly exciting and humbling. My family vacations on the Gulf of Mexico or in North Carolina twice a year, so I have had the fortune of going to the beach several times since I was young, but San Salvador is incredibly unique. The waters of the Bahamian Bank are known for being a surreal aquamarine, but seeing them in person is truly breathtaking.
I could spend the entirety of this essay making the vain attempt to articulate just how amazing the water is, but it is something one really must experience in person. Getting to snorkel, and be touching distance from lionfish, sea turtles, baby sharks, and copious other marine organisms is an experience that I am blessed to have had. Another component of the trip was invaluable in our education. We had the opportunity to speak with the island’s Director of the Ministry of Tourism. Jay is a fountain of knowledge, and he shared most of it with us near the end of the trip. We learned all about not only the environment of San Salvador and how it has been affected by everything from natural disasters like hurricanes to irresponsible tourism, but also about the self sufficiency of the people. In America we benefit from so much that is almost a given that we are unaware of just how many aspects of our lives make living more than convenient. However, a person who lives in an island nation, and one with no exports at that, must learn to do most things like home repairs, car maintenance, and such themselves. This reveals much about the endurance and the competency of the people of San Salvador. I, for one, do not know anyone person who is sufficient enough in almost every aspect of life that they, in general, do not need outward assistance to live their daily life and to overcome obstacles, great and small, on their own. Everything characteristic of San Sal, from the people we met to the plants we researched, is built San Sal tough. I also saw the manifestation of what it means to be an import-only island when we went to the “convenience” store, and I saw a small bushel of grapes on sale for $4.50.
My experience in San Salvador is one that I am extremely grateful for. I genuinely believe that as many students should take this course as possible. And please, for the love of conch fritters, stock up on 50% DEET bug spray before you go!
JheDienne Adams is working towards a Bachelor’s degree in History with a minor in French. She participated in a faculty led trip to the Bahamas during Spring Break, 2018. JheDienne had the following to say about her time in the Bahamas, “I benefited greatly from the study abroad trip to San Salvador. It is a very special thing when one is able to combine a love of travel with a love of knowledge, and to have that combination yield such an enriching product. I remember landing on the island and driving to the Gerace Research Centre. There was just so much food for the eyes. We joked with Jay, the Minister of Tourism, about the absence of the vibrant, tropical flowers one would expect to see on an island, and he responded that the island couldn’t be bothered to entertain the notion of having perky, decorative flowers. They simply are not tough enough. Getting to learn hands-on and see all of the organisms helped me to absorb the information in a way that I most likely would not have done, had I not gone on this trip. Snorkeling, or even just walking, and having the ability to point at something and identify it was rewarding and refreshing. I am currently trying to convince my parents to purchase a beach home there–wish me luck!” JheDienne participated in another faculty led trip in May, 2018; this time, her travels took her to Kenya.