Studying abroad in San Salvador, Bahamas, allowed me to experience a different culture and a different way of life for a week. I had to wake up early in the morning each day, and I didn’t even mind. Each day was something new to learn and experience. Everything about the island was different than what I was expecting, there were banana trees and plants that my mom kept as houseplants used as landscaping. The plants I have grown up knowing were there in the soil and not needed to be taken in when it got cold. Their landscape was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced, their trees were short! It was odd seeing how short their trees were, since I expected Subtropical trees to be massive and they were most definitely not. I learned that because the island is made up of limestone and fossilized coral that their topsoil layer was thin and did not allow trees to have deep roots, so they couldn’t grow big.
Our research involved testing pond water and identifying organisms to update a trail guide. I was shocked by the similarities but also the differences between the plants of San Salvador and Tennessee. There were plants that looked like rhododendrons but were red mangroves, and relatives of the Mimosa tree scattered around. Even pine trees grew, but they were invasive to the island. The plants were structured differently than the ones I’ve known from Tennessee, but that is because they must be better suited for saltwater and minimal topsoil.
We didn’t spend the entire time doing research, many of the days were filled with snorkeling in the ocean or exploring San Sal. I was able to see many of the organisms we talked about in class while snorkeling; sea stars, a sea turtle, and even lion fish. It was incredible to see the things taught about in class in person. Throughout the beaches there were conch shells scattered among the sand. Fishermen harvest the conchs and leave their shells on the beach. Conch is special to the Bahamian people’s culture and is widely popular as a dish. I was able to try conch while in San Sal. One of the days we went out exploring we stopped at a local tavern and the owner had conch fritters prepared for us to try. It is an interesting delicacy that is served with a sauce that is tangy, almost like Zaxby’s sauce, but was better suited to seafood.
My favorite day on the island was Saturday. That morning I was able to see the sun rise off the ocean and it was perfect. Then we went snorkeling in Pigeon Creek, a lagoon on the island, and we explored the mangroves and their prop roots. We saw lots of fish, a sea cucumber, and even some sea slugs. It was relaxing, we got to flow with the current and ended up at a house affected by the hurricane. The floor was covered in sand and it didn’t have any exterior walls. It was fun to explore, since it was a seventies house that had the funky flooring and rock accent wall. At the close of the day we went to the same spot overlooking the ocean to watch the sunset. It was beautiful! I have never and probably will never, see a sunrise and sunset in the same day and in such a beautiful place.
Jessica Wicker is working towards a Bachelor’s degree in Public Administration/Non-Profit Management. She participated in a faculty led trip to the Bahamas during Spring Break, 2018. Jessica had the following to say about her time abroad, “Studying abroad in San Salvador for a week, allowed me to get out of my comfort zone. I tried new foods and activities.We had conch fritters on the island, a food I did not even know existed until I took this class, and it was good! We went night snorkeling in the ocean and it was terrifying and exhilarating at the same time! There were sunrises and sunsets over the ocean, along with day trips to different parts of the island. There was a light house we were able to explore, and a monument to Christopher Columbus on the beach. All in all, this trip was amazing, and I recommend San Salvador to anyone wanting to explore a new place for a week.”