1. Tiny Island Life
I will be spending just over three months living on a little island within the Turks and Caicos archipelago, South Caicos. If you don’t know where Turks and Caicos is, that’s fine. Nearly half of the people I introduce this program to blankly await further explanation. Turks and Caicos (TCI) is at the southeastern tip of the Bahamas and is both a great vacation destination and hub for marine research. South Caicos is not decorated by your typical resorts, lavish pools, or palm trees like the main islands, but rather, it has a very small population of 800-1,000 that mainly lives on the southeastern shore (where I will be, too!). That’s roughly a third of the Holy Cross full-time student population… There are very few amenities on the island, and the food is imported in every two weeks!
2. Diving & Fieldwork
With this School for Field Studies program, comes the decision to snorkel only or get further training and certification to SCUBA dive. Though I’ve never been diving a day in my life, I couldn’t turn down the unique opportunity to learn how to. A huge obstacle with packing is that I really don’t know enough about diving gear in general to find what I’m missing. I can barely spot fair prices or even understand what everything does. To get some help, I went to a local dive shop, which was surprisingly busy for it being the middle of the winter in Massachusetts, to get my gear serviced and actually learn what an “o-ring” and an “alternate air source retainer” are. Thankfully, Wayne at Divers Market Scuba Center in Plymouth, MA, was absolutely exceptional. They put a rush on my gear servicing and even taught me how to read a dive computer, which was pretty cool considering I barely knew how to put on the BC vest. So many new things, and I’m still on Cape Cod!
3. Showering (?)
Another new and strange feature that seems to alarm my friends, family, and hairdresser is that I only have one freshwater shower a week. I’m often greeted with the responses of “Did you know about that BEFORE you signed up?” or “How will you ever feel clean?” or “You need some serious detangling spray immediately!” Yes, I’m aware of ALL of this. I’ve been in touch with other students going with me to TCI this semester and a few that have gone before, and there is a nice list of recommended eco-friendly/biodegradable soaps to use. I will most likely be using the same soap to wash both my hair and clothes with salt water… should be interesting.
I was in touch with a wonderful HC alum who attended this program several years ago, and he provided a wealth of information from the student perspective. I was SO grateful! I highly advise trying to reach out to someone who has gone on your program before (and hopefully loved it!) because there are just a few questions no one else can answer truly as accurately. Of course, the Study Abroad Office and the School for Field Studies itself had every answer to any technical question I could think of, but getting in touch with a HC/SFS TCI alum was great for answering the tough questions, such as my big one “Were you ever actually in a position where a shark could seriously hurt you?” (His response equated sharks to “underwater dogs,” and hey, I hope he’s right.) Being from Cape Cod, seeing sharks as dogs is a hard vision to complete.
5. Small Team of Students
The maximum number of students for this program has usually been around 30, and I’ve been told we’re reaching this capacity. There is only one other Holy Cross student going, and the rest are total strangers from around the United States. Everyone in the program’s Facebook group seems very friendly and ready to get started! I’ll be living in very close quarters with them (around 3 sets of bunk beds per room)! Yes, I guess I did live in a Carlin 6-man, but there were three bedrooms and a common room, SO there’s a difference there for sure. Fingers crossed the semester is drama free and that saltwater showers do the job!