186 South College

grab your coffee, sit back and hang out with the UD Honors Program for a while

Month: February 2018

Lionfish, turtles, and barracudas! Oh my! By Audrey Ostroski

Studying abroad. If you’ve done it, you know how amazing and life-changing it can be. If you haven’t done it, you should. During winter session, I participated in a month-long marine science study abroad program in the Cayman Islands. We stayed at a research institute on the beach on Little Cayman Island. When I say, “on the beach,” I mean, I took five steps off the back-porch steps and I was in the crystal-clear waters of the Caribbean Sea. Little Cayman is tiny. It is only ten miles east to west and one mile north to south. There are more iguanas (2,000) than humans (200) on this island. Unlike some of my peers, I was actually excited about this aspect of the trip. I am a big nature buff so I was looking forward to the relatively untouched wild. I took two classes over the course of the month: field studies of coral reef environments and scientific diving. The trip was absolutely amazing, but I didn’t think it was going to be.

When I first applied for the program, I was so excited. I heard about the trip while I was still in high school because my friend went on it a few years ago. As soon as she told me about her experiences, I knew I just had to go. Now all I had to do was get into the University of Delaware, apply and get accepted to the program, and get SCUBA certified. Easy, right? Wrong. The first two steps were fairly simple and straightforward. But the SCUBA certification presented some unforeseen challenges.

I took the SCUBA class offered at UD. Everything was fine during class. I thoroughly enjoyed diving in the Little Bob’s 13-foot diving well. And I thought I was going to enjoy my certification dives. It was my first chance to finally get into some open water and do this thing for real. Fast forward to the 40-degree, rainy, windy, sunless weekend in May at a quarry with incredibly low visibility and 50-degree water. Then there’s me wearing heavy gear on my back and so many layers of neoprene that I can barely walk as I trek up and down a steep hill to get to and from the frigid, murky water. I’m already nervous about having my lungs explode because I forget to keep breathing on the ascent. There’s also the possibility of getting paralyzing decompression sickness because I went too deep and came up too fast (aka “The Bends” or “getting bent”). And now there are all of these terrible conditions on top of that, not to mention that I was underweighted and having a hard time sinking. Surprisingly, this is quite an annoying problem to have while diving. But alas, I push through it. After two days, four dives, losing one contact lens, and having to do my last dive half blind in five-foot visibility, I was certified and all ready for my trip to the islands.

I thought the fear was over. I was wrong. For a while after being accepted to the program, it was all excitement, bragging, and dreaming of the warm days and cool critters. Then, I started thinking about all of the things I had to do to actually get there. There was the packing puzzle, gathering an absurd number of documents, and calling the bank about my credit cards, just to name a few. I had never been out of the country like this before. I went to Costa Rica for nine days when I was in high school, but we flew as a group, everything was planned out for us minute-by-minute, and we were never without a teacher. This was different. I was flying out of the country by myself and I was going to be away from my family for a whole month. Considering I went to college 15 minutes away from my house, this is something I had never done before. Plus, all of my SCUBA fears were resurfacing (pardon the pun). I was definitely going to get bent and die or run out of air 100 feet down and die or get eaten by a shark and die –  I was OK with the last one because that would be a cool way to go. Let’s just say the certification dives did not placate my misgivings about SCUBA diving, but rather exacerbated my fears and even created some new ones. Yay. So now it’s two months, one month, three weeks, two days before I leave and I am absolutely freaking out. I scream at my family that I am no longer going on the trip, as I frantically run around with tears streaming down my face, trying to pack everything I need into two bags with a combined weight of 55 pounds (yeah, that was interesting). I was simply not going. It was too much stress and effort to be worth it. They all just rolled their eyes, knowing I was being melodramatic.

But once again, I was wrong. It was worth it. It truly was the experience of a lifetime. Now, I am not saying that it was all bliss and island relaxation as soon as I got there. “I’ll get there, see the water, sit on the beach, and be fine,” I said to everyone after telling them I was extremely nervous. (I did this mostly to convince myself more than anything.) Again, wrong. It was rough for the first week and a half. I was homesick, getting used to the food, cold showers, and bathrooms (which were composting, i.e. no indoor plumbing, i.e. holes that led to the dark abyss of nothingness and were thoroughly terrifying at night as the wind howled through them, making a noise similar to what I can only imagine was the last noise the victims of the harpies heard before they were whisked away to their doom). And then there was the diving. Yes, I was still panicking about diving. The first dive we did was a check-out dive. The SCUBA instructor from the research institute needed to dive with us and have us perform certain skills to ensure we were ready for our scientific diving training. One of these lovely skills was the dreaded mask removal. Yes, we had to fully remove our masks underwater and then put them back on underwater. Forty feet below. And this wasn’t the first time either. This was the skill that caused me to lose one contact lens on my certification dives in that awful quarry. And here’s the thing, I didn’t really have a choice. It was either take my mask off, or not dive at all for the entire month, which I was OK with at this point, if it wasn’t for the large sum of money I had spent on this trip and the fact that I would fail the class, tanking my GPA. After warning the dive instructor about my storied past with this particular skill, I hopped in the water, descended, and did it. I just did it. It actually wasn’t that bad and on that same dive I saw a ginormous spotted eagle ray. Definitely worth it. It took me a few more dives to become completely comfortable, but I soon went from last off the back of the boat to first in the water every time. I couldn’t wait to get down there.

As soon as I became comfortable with diving, I had a blast. We dove almost every day, sometimes twice a day. We did deep dives where we went to 100 feet. We did night dives where we saw sleeping sea turtles, basket stars, octopuses, squid, and bioluminescent plankton. I got to swim with some of the most amazing creatures on Earth: spotted eagle rays, southern stingrays, parrotfish, nurse sharks, Nassau groupers, barracudas, sea turtles, moray eels, and so much more. Every day was an adventure and I learned so much. Besides learning how to catch and clean conches, we learned how to identify different coral species, how corals live and grow, and how islands form. We ran transect lines and collected data on reef composition, built quadrats to which we mounted GoPros in order to take pictures of the reef, analyzed our pictures using computer programs, and then compiled our data to take a broader look at the reefs we explored all month. I also got to meet some amazing people from around the world and made a great group of new friends from UD.

My message for you from all of this is that you need to go outside of your comfort zone. As you can see, I forced myself way out of my comfort zone and ended up having a fantastic experience that I will never forget. I was so close to calling it off because it stressed me out and I didn’t think my temporary discomfort was worth anything. But like I’ve said many times throughout this post, I was wrong. I almost missed the opportunity of a lifetime because I was scared and stressed. If you know deep down (and you always will, go with your gut) that something is going to be good for you, just do it! I learned invaluable lessons from the experiences I had. I made new friends. I saw cool things. I gained a lot of knowledge. I mean, I went from never wanting to SCUBA dive again to wanting to go back a few days after I got back to the U.S. You never know what awaits you outside of your bubble.

The City of Brotherly Love…Until We Play You in the Super Bowl by Carly Patent

Philadelphia: the home of the cheesesteak, the central hub of rowdy sports fans, the resting grounds of the Liberty Bell, and birthplace of semantics such as “jawn.” If there’s one thing that Philadelphians can agree on, it’s our shared Philly pride. Adding on to our extensive list of praise-worthy accomplishments is our most recent triumph of not only beating the Patriots in Super Bowl LII but also obtaining our first ever Super Bowl win. If it was believed that Philadelphians were proud before this momentous event, then Sunday, February 4, 2018 has most definitely proved everyone wrong.

Philadelphia is truly a special place that I am proud to say has a place in my heart (even though I’m from the suburbs right outside of Philly, it still counts). First, let’s start off with indeed the most important factor in any great city: the food. Immediately, cheesesteaks come to mind. You simply can’t say that you’re from Philly without having feasted on a proper cheesesteak. Of course, the battle between Pats and Genos is well-known, with people making the trip to the corner of East Passyunk Ave. to compare the two and see what all the hype is really about. Whether you order your steak as the classic “Whiz wit” or some other variation, you’re guaranteed to enjoy the simplicity of such a simple food – something that not even the greatest five-star chefs can match. Philadelphia, however, isn’t just known for its cheesesteaks. Philly soft pretzels could put Auntie Anne’s out of business in a second, and there’s nothing better than a warm pretzel (or a dozen) right out of the oven. I’m sure that many kids can relate to the happiness that I used to feel on pretzel days in school and the joy of finding fifty cents tucked away in my backpack so that I could buy one. Another Philly staple is the Tastykake, a classic treat that has recently expanded to other parts of the country. Whether it’s Butterscotch Krimpets, Kandy Kakes, or Cupcakes, Tastykakes cannot be rivaled – sorry Hostess and Little Debbie! For those of you who haven’t had a Tastykake, please, do yourself a favor, run to the nearest POD immediately, and purchase one. You can thank me later! The last, but certainly not least, Philadelphia favorite is water ice. Of course, the first disclaimer that I’d like to stress is not something about how satisfying water ice is on a hot summer day or how smooth the ice is or even how many flavors there are. Instead, I’d like to make a point about the pronunciation; for traditional Philadelphians, it’s “wooder” ([wʊɾəɹ] for all of the linguistics fans out there). Now that we’ve settled that debate, back to the water ice. There’s just something about a cup full of artificially dyed and flavored ice topped with fluffy, creamy soft serve swirled to perfection and bathed in rainbow jimmies – yes, I’m referring to “sprinkles” …just another Philadelphia semantic example with no explanation. Classic Philadelphia foods have the power to take us to a game at Citizens Bank Park, to the first day of Spring and long lines for free water ice, and to the red benches outside of Pat’s.

Although traditional Philly foods have satisfied our city’s stomachs for years, the history and depth of our city have also satisfied our spirits for years as well – encompassing the pride for which Philadelphians are known. Philadelphia is rich in culture, and even though some customs are quite random, they are undoubtedly ours. Traditionally, Philadelphia is well-known for the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, City Hall, the Walnut Street Theater, colorful murals, and the Philadelphia Zoo. Its Museum of Art exhibits magnificent artwork yet also offers the perfect opportunity to run up the “Rocky Steps” and throw your hands up in the air just as Rocky is shown doing in his nearby statue. Another landmark representative of Philadelphia is none other than the Reading Terminal Market – a true cultural explosion. One of America’s largest and oldest markets, the Reading Terminal Market offers everything from an irresistible roast pork sandwich to uniquely-flavored donuts and from a made-to-order cannoli to duck fat grilled cheese sandwiches. Long story short, the Reading Terminal Market has something for everyone, and almost everyone is guaranteed a “food baby” after this experience. The Mummers Parade is an event that is an additional Philly favorite. Each New Year’s Day, clubs compete in four categories: comics, fancies, string bands, and fancy brigades. With ornate costumes, scenery, and elaborate performances that take a year to organize, the Mummers Parade is an enjoyable, classic way to ring in a new year, and it’s almost sacrilegious to not watch it for at least five minutes on the first of January. Finally, one of Philly’s weirdest events is none other than the Wing Bowl, a contest for eating, you guessed it: chicken wings. This event has gained such popularity over the years that it is now held in the Wells Fargo Center, home to the Philadelphia Flyers and Sixers. What these examples hopefully demonstrate is that Philadelphia has a lot going on; from historical landmarks to contemporary happenings, we have plenty in which to immerse ourselves.

While our food is delicious and our city is thriving, there is one thing that brings Philadelphians together like no other: Philadelphia sports. Anyone who has ever been to a Sixers, Phillies, Flyers, or Eagles game will hopefully be able to attest to this fact. There’s no rhyme or reason for why Philly fans have been known to tailgate for hours on end, to paint their faces and entire bodies, and to, at times – make pretty foolish decisions. At least some of our dedication, however, can be attested to the fact that we love our city and want to prove it on the fields, on the ice, and on the court. Now, multiply this spirit by about 100%, and you’ll get what winning our first Super Bowl has done to make our city even greener, even louder, and even prouder. Let’s just say that “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”…especially after we win the Super Bowl. I’m sure that many Philly fans can agree with me when I say that this Sunday night game was nail-biting, breath-holding, and touchdown-calculating. The road to this victory was long, having lost Carson Wentz to an ACL injury mid-season – to which I can only say “Hold up wait a minute, y’all thought I was finished?” (special shout out to Meek Mill’s “Dreams and Nightmares,” the Eagles’ Super Bowl entrance). True Eagles fans, however, never gave up on our chance to finally bring home a ring, and it was evident that this one game would magically bring our city together like never before. Pretzels were sold shaped like bones to symbolize the fact that we were the “underdogs,” buildings and bridges donned green lights, offices allowed everyone to wear forgo suits and business attire and instead don Eagles gear, and police greased poles to prevent people from climbing them in celebration. As evidenced by the happenings of the parade, however, even slippery poles won’t stop an excited Eagles fan. For me, this was quite the experience, being the only Eagles fan in my friend group. Everyone was instructed that if they would be watching with me, they were not permitted to say anything negative about the Eagles, and everyone was expected to eat an Eagles cupcake (generously provided by my mom) for good measure. I will admit that it was quite humoring to be able to celebrate my victory by rubbing it in their faces that my team won and that theirs didn’t – take that Giants fans!

Philadelphia’s recent Super Bowl win has enlightened my mind to appreciate my city even more so than before. I am proud of our quirks and traditions and of the spirit that we have in celebrating all that our city has given to us. Being away from everything – especially the traditional Super Bowl party atmosphere, fireworks, and parade – was difficult, but thankfully, my dad went out at 4:45 on the following Monday morning to get his hands on a Super Bowl t-shirt for me so that I could still feel included. I think that the only way to properly end this blog post is with E-A-G-L-E-S, EAGLES…until next Super Bowl when we go for win number two!


Upside Down Hammering and Other Stories by Emily Fudge

This past winter session I vowed not to die of boredom. All of my friends were either at UD, studying abroad, or working. I, on the other hand, was doing a whole lot of nothing. Worried that I would wither away into a pile of dust like I (almost) did last year, I wanted to find a meaningful way to spend my time.

Alpha Phi Omega (APO), the co-ed community service fraternity of which I am a brother, provided me a ticket out of the dust pan. Every winter, they offer a service trip with Habitat for Humanity to brothers during the last week of winter session. This was my chance to serve a community while meeting and bonding with other brothers in the chapter. Being a newly initiated brother, I was anxious and nervous to expand my reach in the chapter and meet some new people.

At first, I was hesitant to sign on. I wasn’t sure how comfortable I felt spending a week with people I did not know in an unfamiliar place. Spending eight hours in a car ride to North Carolina with six strangers isn’t exactly my idea of a fun time. Nevertheless, I gave myself a pep talk and submitted the application.

Every morning the thirteen of us would wake up at 6:45 am, get dressed, eat breakfast together, and head out to the work site by 7:30 am. There is something about eating breakfast all together that makes any place feel like home. Some of my favorite memories from the trip include the battle to fight morning crankiness together by knocking back some coffee and scraping our cereal bowls. We would work from 7:30 am-11:30 am, go back to eat lunch, return to the work site at 12:30 pm and finish at 3 pm. Different community groups and members volunteered to make us dinner. The rest of the day was ours to sleep, play games, adventure around, and most importantly, go to a fast food chain called Cook-Out for $3 milkshakes.

Before I go any further, I must make a disclaimer. Though slightly tangential to the image of service I am painting, I must say that just because you are in “the South” does NOT mean the weather is warmer. The temperature stayed in a consistent frigid realm of 30 degrees the whole time, making it colder in North Carolina on most days than it was back at UD. Wearing four pairs of pants, three shirts, two jackets, a hat, gloves, wool socks, and work boots, my fellow volunteers and I dressed work site chic and braved the elements to continue building the house.

With only the basic framework done, we were working with some pretty bare bones. My friend Alyssa and I found ourselves working on the scaffolding close to the roof to hammer some planks of wood to the frame for support. Before this trip, I could count the number of times I have wielded a hammer on one hand. It took us an excruciatingly long (and embarrassing) 45 minutes to put up one piece of wood. We definitely would’ve been fired – effective immediately. I’ll never know if our struggle was noticed or if people needed jobs, but thankfully other crew members began to help us out. Through the power of teamwork we put up the rest of the boards by lunch. I learned that I am very skilled at “upside-down hammering,” a skill which I am sure will come in handy in the immediate future. It’s going to take my resume to the next level, for sure.

Throughout the week, two other APO volunteers and I worked on building a back porch with a Habitat site leader names Mike. If you ever meet a Habitat for Humanity Construction Supervisor in Winston-Salem, North Carolina named Mike, consider yourself extremely lucky. We basically built the deck from scratch and, as you probably guessed, had no clue what to do. Mike led us through each step with patience, understanding, and purpose. He never got annoyed or frustrated with us or the project. Mike truly cared about each project and person that he interacted with. A soft-spoken Southerner, he reminded us that there is “always a chance to be kind, especially since there is so much hatred and violence in the world.”

Unfortunately, we were one railing short of finishing the deck. My heart sank knowing that we wouldn’t be able to see our project through to the end, but I feel honored to have had the chance to contribute to the deserving family that will eventually inhabit the house.

Not only did I learn a lot about the power of helping others on this trip, but I also learned about myself. My life was put into perspective and I have been trying to place some valuable pieces of this knowledge into my daily life going forward. I aspire to serve others every day, both in my personal and professional life. It is empowering to join with others who care; there is always a place in the world for learning together, laughing together, and the warm embrace of a caring community.

There are so many service opportunities here at UD! On February 24 I plan to engage in the MLK Day of Service sponsored by ResLife. I encourage you to look into different service trips and projects including: ResLife, the Honors Program, UDAB, Greek life, and any other RSO on campus!

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