Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Getting Ready to Climb Aboard

The decision to study abroad is easily one of the best choices I've made while attending HPU. In just a couple of days I'm leaving for Falmouth, Massachusetts to take part in a SEA Semester - Marine Biodiversity and Conservation (MBC). This program is not to be confused with Semester At Sea! A SEA (Sea Education Association) Semester takes place on a tall ship - a one hundred and thirty foot long, double-masted, steel-hulled sailing vessel with a maximum capacity of 35 students and crew; not aboard a massive cruise ship! I'm extremely excited to take part in this three month long adventure abroad. I have sailed aboard tall ships multiple times, but never for this amount of time. While I may feel somewhat at home on a floating abode, there is still a lot of firsts coming my way, and it has been a source of anxiety in my everyday life. My program MBC is the most science-intensive program offered by SEA, with classes focusing on marine ecology, biological diversity, and marine resource management and sustainable practices of coastal communities. The program starts in Woods Hole, MA, where SEA is based. This is the first "first" for me - I have never been to Massachusetts, let alone during winter! I was born and raised in southern California and then moved here to Hawaii - I feel as though I am in no way mentally prepared for a month of living in the snow! I have borrowed snow boots, winter coats, gloves, and snow caps, but daily highs of 35 and overnight lows of 18 are not particularly inviting! However, my excitement to meet my fellow student sailors far outweighs my insecurities regarding the weather. The majority of us have met via a group page on Facebook, posting about ourselves to get the introductions started! I am easily the student traveling from the furthest - over 5000 miles! The majority of students are from the New England area, and I'm looking forward to exploring Boston with the locals! After a month in snow, I'll experience my second "first" - traveling to Puerto Rico! We get to the small island two days before we board the ship, and most of us are staying in the same hostel. While it is always nerve wracking to go to a new place with people you don't know, I cannot wait to explore! While in Puerto Rico I hope to find more beautiful beaches, delicious local cuisine, eclectic communities, and a simpler, slower way of life. Hopefully we'll be able to experience a lot in just forty-eight hours! On April 20th we board the ship - this is the day I am most looking forward to. We set sail in the early afternoon, our bow set to Bermuda - another first for me! I have never seen the Atlantic, let alone sail on it or swim in it! I'm curious to see the difference between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, especially while we collect data for our individual science topics. Mostly, I'm excited for when we lose sight of land. For many people, this would most likely be the scariest part of the trip; thankfully this is where my sailing experience comes in hand. There is nothing similar to turning 360 degrees and seeing nothing but light blue skies and dark blue ocean. Personally, I feel no sense of panic or loss - on the contrary, I feel empowered and confident that we'll find our way to where we need to go.

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