I embarked on my first study abroad journey this past spring break, and wow, what an experience. I never knew how much I could love a place.
The island of San Salvador, Bahamas is less than 65 square miles. Even at this small size, there was still so much to see. We stayed on the northern end of the island at the Gerace Research Centre, located directly across the street from the beach. A simple two minute walk from the dorm brought my toes to the incoming tide. My class of 17 students instantly bonded. Being overseas in close quarters with people who are there for the same reason as you truly does create friendships.
The purpose of our travel was research. This was my first experience with research, and I realized how interesting and fun it is. We surveyed a trail guide from 1985 and worked towards updating it. Our class was split into four groups. My group was assigned the tail end of the trail. Many of our days consisted of hiking the trail, identifying and sampling the specimens, and taking water sample. We spent time in the lab creating our ideas and trying our best to identify each sample we collected. We tested our water’s nitrite, nitrate, ammonia, and salinity levels. This aspect of the trip was a hands on learning experience, which was very effective. I loved taking what I learned in the classroom and applying it to a real research setting. The hard work spent in the classroom during the semester paid off during our time on the island.
Aside from researching, we were able to enjoy the breathtaking views of San Salvador. I woke up extra early a few mornings to catch the sunrise from a perfect viewing spot and I observed the sunset almost every day. I had never seen such a beautiful environment with my own two eyes. The water was an indescribable blue and the sunrises and sunsets complemented the ocean waves.
As a class we explored the ocean by snorkeling. This part of the trip hit home for me. I used to have a saltwater fish tank filled with wonderful fish my family and I cared for. I felt nostalgic while witnessing the wonders of the ocean. Out of all the times we snorkeled during the week, the one that stood out the most to me was the night snorkeling. This was a night I will never forget. Being in the ocean when it is pitch black with only a flashlight was definitely eerie, but it was such a rush, and I saw many species I did not see while snorkeling during the day. I saw a pufferfish, an eel, a flounder, a baby shark, along with many reef fish.
I chose this study abroad trip to this destination because it is unique. San Salvador is the island Christopher Columbus first landed on when looking for the New World. An island with such rich history and beauty needs to be explored. San Salvador has left a lasting impression on me. I am grateful I had the opportunity to travel to such a beautiful place and conduct research with a wonderful group of people.
Stephanie Swart is working towards a Bachelor’s degree in Art: Photography and Media. She participated in a faculty led trip to the Bahamas during Spring Break, 2018. Stephanie had the following to say about her time abroad, “Through my time spent studying abroad, I grew an appreciation for all the world has to offer. San Salvador, Bahamas is a beautiful and unique island that I was lucky enough to conduct hands on research at. I tend to forget I am capable of travelling beyond my home country. There are countless places waiting to be explored, and I cannot wait to embark on more journeys similar to the one I took to San Salvador.”