TCI and Taking Things for Granted

My introduction to the South Caicos community has been full of new experiences, adjustments, and challenges. Even though every week involves SCUBA diving lessons, snorkeling with stingrays, and exploring the nearest beaches, everyday habits and routines required more demanding alterations.  I’ve noticed a few obvious things that forced me to reflect on what I took for granted at home.

1. Laundry and Line Drying

I definitely did not enjoy doing laundry at Holy Cross. Either the dryer left your clothes damp, no machines were available, or the walk up and down the stairs was just too painful after a long week. On our lovely little island, we don’t have washing machines, dryers, or even real soap. My first experience with laundry here did not go as well as I had hoped. Laundry is done in two black buckets, one with biodegradable (fake) soap and salt water and the other with freshwater for rinsing. I sat in the blistering sun and “cleaned” my clothes with a long stick and my hands. I went to line dry everything, and with my luck, half of the clothes were left with castile soap residue, it rained, and white clothes fell in the dirt. This process of doing one load of laundry ended up taking me three days.

Salt water and Dr. Bronner’s soap to the left and fresh water on the right. Can’t complain about the view!
Where all of my clothes were meant to dry but got soaked and dirty all over again… for everyone to see.

2. Saltwater Showers Sunday-Saturday

I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to swim in crystal clear, blue waters each day, but after a long day of sunscreen and saltwater, I can only take an extremely unsatisfying saltwater rinse. Using the same soap I used for that traumatizing laundry, I usually shower in one of the outdoor showers (one with walls, one without). I end up feeling equally as dirty and sticky as when I started, but at least I smell very minty and like the essential oils I’ve found here. We get one freshwater shower a week that only turns on when you pull a metal string to avoid wasting the freshwater that is entirely caught from rain. I usually take one on Saturday after volunteering!

That’s the shower! (Peep the tiny shower head on the top left.) Also, that view is of Long Cay (right), which is a perfect spot for whale watching!
Snorkeling! Something that I’ll do for an hour or two a day that would normally demand a freshwater shower after.

3. WiFi Withdrawals

Whether you’re downloading a document, sending emails, using your GPS, or texting a message, I was so used to the immediate, easy, helpful results of using my phone and WiFi at Holy Cross. If my Dinand desktop took more than 2 minutes to log-in, I readily abandoned it. If I forgot how to get to Nu Café, I could hop in my car, check the traffic, and map it. Here, the WiFi is slow and phone functioning is minimal. Though frustrating at times, I’ve come to appreciate the “unplugged” attitude. Every morning I sit on a rock wall looking over the ocean to journal instead of looking at my phone. I read before bed and play cards after dinner. Even though I could really use better WiFi here to conduct research or call home, I’ve started to establish new self-care and social routines I value and hope to bring back to Worcester.

My morning journal view!
A rainbow by our boats and dock, where we get ready for our dives and snorkels.
… and of course, the group of amazing people that I’m so excited to be living with!

Holy Cross vs. Turks and Caicos Islands – What’s New?

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!

South Caicos is highlighted in blue!

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!

More info @ – Thanks Wayne!

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 guess it’s hard to complain about the showers when the research center looks like this! (

4. Sharks/Dogs

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.

What a cute dog! (

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!

Though our living space was much larger, I don’t think any program could top this level of closeness!