The 17 students heading to Union Island felt excitement and nervousness as we waited for the airport speaker to call for the groups to board the plane. The majestic Caribbean reefs awaited us, but so did multiple examinations, assignments, and projects.
Tired from a four-hour ferry ride, the drive to study was low, and all everyone wanted to do was eat, shower and sleep. However, the next day, June 5th, the first coral quiz awaited us after our first dive. Refreshed and recently viewing lively reefs rejuvenated us to study hard to learn what we saw. We talked and reviewed the basic corals we visited there for hours, ensuring the scientific name stuck with us. Killing two birds with one stone, we learned more about each other while simultaneously getting to know the coral.
Even during dinner, it was like a game to see who knew the most and then how one could remember them for the next time (repetition and recall studying methods worked like a charm). There was barely any rest in learning; however, those quizzes never stopped people from having fun. There were back-to-back quizzes from June 6th to the 9th. To unwind from each of them, we took frequent breaks with karaoke, singing old 2000s songs like ‘I Want You Back,’ ‘Dark Horse,’ ‘Replay,’ etc.
We played cards (Uno) at the pool and explored the town. One day a local we got close to took us to a beautiful beach. As students full of curiosity, we climbed up a hill near the beach and found a grand rock formation, allowing us to take in the view. We talked about everything and nothing, collected seashells, took photos, and picked up little crabs to view.
The highlight for many was the Imani group, a traditional group with people from all over the Grenadines with African routes that wished to remain in touch with their culture; The girls tended to dance while the boys played drums. The boys in our group showed everyone what it meant to move your waist to the drums, and shortly after, all the girls gracefully took over. The moves seemed simple, but they were passionate, elegant, and exciting to see and do. Nearly everyone had a go, and some even impressed the dance instructor. However, in good fun-to-school balance, after working up a sweat and eating, people split into groups or isolated to be able to study for our last fish quiz.
Ultimately, this trip reinforced the skill of balancing having fun and being serious. This trip is a class, but there is no reason learning should not be fun. We were lucky to have a fair fun-to-academic ratio on this trip. The quizzes were relentless but kept us accountable. The beach, the fun drift and wreck dive, the dancing, and the hurdling by the pool brought a group of strangers closer together that may have never met if not for this trip. The group was full of life and had the best experience possible, taking all the fun opportunities on the island while leaving room for education. When we got home, a paper and presentation awaits us. But it gave people a taste of what could be their future in the marine biologist world. This trip kindles the youthful spirit; researching, exploring, and learning about the world is exciting and doable; all you need to do is take the step.
The authors of this blog are students enrolled in Tropical Marine Ecology and Conservation, field courses run in the Caribbean by the University of South Florida. During these courses, students learn scientific diving techniques over a 10-14 day period and carry out research and monitoring of coral reefs at various sites. Many of these courses are done in partnership with local environmental organizations, like the Union Island Environmental Alliance and the Soufriere Marine Management Association. In this blog, students will document their activities and how they relate to course material.