Professor Peterson and Warren would like to thank the student’s of this year’s Tropical Marine Ecology course for a great and productive class. And we managed to get back to NY before the snowstorm arrived (otherwise we all might still be in Jamaica). Hopefully everybody has found a local supplier of ox tail, goat curry, and guava jam. Now the instructor’s favorite annual blog post: the Before and After class photos.
We woke up today with a sense of urgency. We had a transect analysis assignment due at 1pm and our final exam was set to begin at 430pm. The dorms, cafeteria, and lecture room are usually alive with spirited conversation and music and laughing. Today, however, everyone had their heads down into their notes and laptops with headphones in concentrating on projects and studying. We didn’t congregate together in one area like we usually do. Some of us stayed in the cafeteria, some in their rooms, and some in the lecture room with periodic breaks to the helicopter pad to study with a view.
As I was studying today on the heli-pad I had flashbacks to last week. Marissa had been leading Will and I in a short, but necessary, yoga meditation. We discussed that usually during meditation you are supposed to picture your happy place. We paused for a minute, looked around and laughed. We realized that where we were, in that moment, was our happy place. We didn’t want to close our eyes and picture somewhere else – we were there. Crystal clear teal water all around with a light breeze and a coral reef crest in the distance housing all the creatures we’ve come to learn about – this is paradise.
Tonight was our last dinner together as the dysfunctional family we’ve grown to become in this short trip. I can look around at all these people and say with confidence that I appreciate all of them for what they’ve contributed to this experience. Lila taught me that having a genuine passion for what you’re learning about makes the experience more joyous than stressful. Yulia shocked me in how she was able to go from someone who had minimal knowledge on snorkeling, to a certified and bad-ass PADI open water diver. Suzie taught me more about how to approach life and its challenges in this short trip than I’ve learned in my whole life. Deana inspired me when I watched her complete the last leg of her PADI certification as she swam lap after lap in front of the dock without wavering in strength. Alyssa was the first person to say something hilariously sarcastic when we arrived at DBML and really broke the ice for all the joking that followed and brought us closer as a group. Sebastian is one of the most helpful and resourceful people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. Phenix really pumped me up when he took on Dunn’s River Falls twice without fear…and he’s a non-life science major. Andrew was the first friend I made on this trip and the first person to make me feel comfortable when we arrived in Jamaica while we talked on line for immigration. Marissa has proven to be a hilarious person and a great friend/yoga teacher. Justina has a work ethic that I don’t think I’ll ever match in life. Hannah’s perseverance inspired me as she smiled through certification complications and pushed herself to climb the hardest part of the waterfall. Albert is far braver than I was at his age. At 18 years old, he threw himself into this program with a bunch of 20 somethings and had a great time. Shane taught me that you can never take enough pictures and never wear enough Superman attire. Gabriel taught me that a swimming limone is the best limone, and for some reason his laugh would brighten my day. Frankie and Will are the kind of men this world needs more of, and I am so happy to be able to call them my friends. Horia taught me that, no matter where you are, it’s important to live and experience the moment. My classmates turned this study abroad class into a life altering experience.
Brad and Joe brought out the best in us as students. The way this class was run, and how we were encouraged to explore and learn, really made a difference for us. I will never forget the adventures we went on here and I will never forget Jamaica. I’m taking what I learned here with me wherever I go in life.
Thank you everyone.
Peace, sunscreen, neoprene….Nikki Goodman
There were mixed emotions this morning when we learned the conditions were too windy to go on our last dive. We were sad to miss out on this last dive, but grateful for the opportunity to sleep and study for our final exam today. Everyone spent most of the day over identification books and laptops, silently mouthing scientific names of fish, invertebrates, and algae. As we were all waiting to enter the wet lab for the oral part of the exam, a full rainbow broke out across the water—it helped take our minds off of the task of impending doom.
The exam is over now, and everyone is happy to relax, eat our last dinner, and hang out with all of the friends we made here. It’s been a great trip!
Congratulations to Hannah for becoming a PADI certified open water diver today!
I have always enjoyed studying biology. So it feels great to have had the opportunity of applying my theoretical learning experience into a more practical learning experience. And for that, I am thankful with Jamaica, for it is truly a great country. It is always sunny and breezy and the people here are lively and welcoming. Today we had our last exam for the class, so now all the tension has dissipatated. So we are now enjoying our last hours here in Jamaica in company of all the new friends that have also become like family. Until next time, Jamaica.
Although most of us are already homesick and cannot wait to go back to New York, the realization that we have to leave this place is still weighing down our hearts. In the past two weeks, 18 students came and have been placed in a confined area. We have talked, bonded, fought, made up, and loved. We have formed a family: a group of people who secretly want to kill each other, yet they tolerate and understand each person’s good and bad sides. I was blessed to experience that in my college life as such things seem to be a part of our long-gone childhood. The circumstances we were put in gave us no choice but to get each other, and although we did feel like we were in a prison sometimes, we were in it together. Looking back, I am glad that the rules didn’t allow us to leave our campus unless we travelled with our group and professors because that made our bonding more wholesome. I hope we maintain the connections we built on this short trip for a very long time. Looking forward to all the reunions we are going to have in the future! Love y’all.
Unfortunately, our last full day here in Jamaica will not start off with a 7AM dive for the second day in a row, due to less than ideal conditions. Sure, we were spoiled this entire trip with beautiful, windless, and cloudless days for the majority of our stay, but it still hurts a little that I can’t get one more taste of life underwater (actually tasting saltwater may not be as missed). As groggy as I may have been waking up at 6AM, cruising on a boat and giant striding into the blue became contagious. Diving was just another routine for us here, and getting to experience breathing at 60 feet below the surface is something I don’t think I’ll forget any time soon.
Jamaica, it’s been real. Thank you for experiences of a lifetime, and sharing a portion of what you have to offer on and below the surface. I’ll be sure to escape the cold of New York as soon as I can.
Maybe TLC was wrong when they said “Don’t go chasin’ waterfalls” because we did just that today and it was epic. After a rainy morning that caused us to miss out on a dive due to less than ideal conditions, we set out for Dunns River Falls as a group. This is a series of natural waterfalls ending in the ocean that proved to be more fun than a water park. In the words of our professors, “There are two types of people: those that hold hands and walk up the easy side of the falls, and those that don’t.” I can confidently say that our group likes to live on the edge. With gushing water and tall, challenging climbs, we made our way up to the top of the falls with nothing more than some scratches and bruises. Then, we went for round 2. And round 3. And some of us even round 4.
We then made our way to Ocho Rios, a popular tourist destination for some lunch and souvenir shopping. Believe it or not, we haven’t totally forgotten about our families back home that are braving the cold. We got back just in time for dinner and to work on our final assignments and prepare for our final tomorrow.
It’s hard to believe how quickly these past 2 weeks has flown by and how, though we started as 20 strangers, we’re leaving as a family.
Today we visited Dunn’s river falls and Ocho Rios. Dunn River Falls is a fresh water fall that we climbed today. The water was brisk but, very much enjoyable. When I first started climbing falls I was very unsure of if I would be able to reach the top. I had my struggles and fell once but, that did not deter me from successfully making my way to the top twice. After relaxing in the falls for a bit we left to go the city Ocho Rios which was a busying metropolis with many restaurants and shops. The only problem is that we have a little bit under an hour and a half to enjoy it. I was not able to finish my shopping for Caribbean seasoning and spices after I finished lunch however, I did purchase a small steel drum. Now that we have returned it is time to continue studying for our big exams tomorrow.
Today all of us went out to Ocho Rios for lunch and some shopping at the straw market. There were so many different stores to choose from as we walked around the plaza, our first mission was to get some food. We chose to sit at a restaurant where we could eat outside with a nice view. The food at the lab is always good, but we were excited to try some local cuisine outside our familiar cafeteria. I ordered coconut shrimp which was amazing! All of us at the table enjoyed our food and talked about how nice it is to sit outside while all our family and friends are freezing at home. We were all trying to enjoy our afternoon because we knew when we got back to the lab it would be studying time. We finished up eating and went to the straw market to buy some souvenirs.
Today was the most exhilarating day of the trip. At 10am we left discovery bay and all our worries about exams and assignments and headed to Dunn’s river falls. Joe told us we were in for an extreme trip but I never imagined we would be climbing up near vertical waterfalls with fast rushing water or running through slippery rocks covered with algae. I nearly broke my bones three times today, but I have also never felt this adventurous in a long time. After Dunn’s river we quickly changed into dry clothes and headed to real Jamaican town for lunch. The food was excellent as always and after lunch we got explore the town for a few hours. The town was filled with stores and street vendors selling every type of souvenir you can imagine. And although I had to say no to many different offers from local vendors that this was certainly one of the most enjoyable days in I had in Jamaica.