Tag: study abroad (page 2 of 5)

“How I Lost My Sunglasses in New Zealand” by Erin Jackson

Packing lightly for a month-long trip to the other side of the world can be quite a process. I am a notorious over-packer, and while I am actually quite proud of my ability to pack only the necessities for my New Zealand adventure, there was one item I was glad to have brought in abundance: sunglasses. The combination of having incredibly light-sensitive eyes and a rather impressive ability to lose or break sunglasses does not make for an ideal situation. So, before leaving the United States, I made sure to pack up the pair I was wearing with an extra two pairs in my backpack.

My sunglasses collection lasted for an entire day. Then my group decided to go to Sumner Beach for the afternoon. Continue reading

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.

Guest Post: A World Scholar in Madrid

Hailey Zirkle, Honors Program ’20

Four continents, eleven countries, seventeen states. I am eighteen years old, and I have covered 4.5 percent of planet Earth in my travels. Just over two months ago I left my home state of Delaware to embark on one of the biggest moments of not only my travel career, but also of my life.

My name is Hailey Zirkle. I was born in South Carolina but moved north to Delaware during my childhood. At the age of fourteen I began working my first job at Amore Pizza, followed soon after with another job at Limestone Vet Hospital. Graduating from Conrad High School in June 2016, I made the brave decision to begin my college experience at the University of Delaware in another country: Spain.

Here are some cultural differences I noted within the first few hours of being in Spain. Continue reading

Going Abroad: Exploring a New Place or a Journey Within Myself?

When I first applied to study abroad for winter session 2016, I didn’t really think too hard about it. Going abroad was something everyone seemed to recommend and I figured, ‘why not? – It would be a neat resume builder.’ Throughout the whole process, from applying, to the final pre-trip meeting, it never actually felt like I was going to Fiji. We talked about it all the time, but the reality didn’t sink in until it was the day of departure. Even then, once it was real, I did not expect to come back feeling completely different about the world around me.

I give the power of words a lot of credit, but my trip to Fiji is something I struggle to detail. Secondhand explanations just can’t do it justice. I fell in love with a culture that was just what I needed. I fell in love with the traditional song and dance, with “Fiji Time”, with the complete openness and welcoming nature of the Fijians. Of course it was beautiful, it’s Fiji, but I got so much out of being there besides pretty pictures (especially since my phone was stolen and I lost a good amount of them). Being fully immersed in a way of life so different from my own with a new group of people all unlike me, I learned a lot about who exactly “Maddy Williams” really is.

Fiji in all its natural beauty

Fiji in all its natural beauty

The best way to explain this is with an anecdote: The day I went to swim with sharks. No one else in my group wanted to come with me, but I decided to go forward and do it anyway. I woke up early the morning of to catch a bus traveling a city away. These buses were open to the air with no window panes and full of Fijians staring at me, not used to seeing white tourists take the local transportation. From the next city I took another bus to another city and from there a boat to another island completely. I did my thing, swam with some sharks, and took the return trip all over again. All in the entire trip took all day. I was nervous to take this journey by myself, especially since I don’t even regularly take the buses here on campus. But after it was over? I was so proud of myself for doing something I really wanted to do. I didn’t compromise and miss this once in a lifetime opportunity simply because no one wanted to come. I really came out of my shell, both talking to people on the bus and making friends on the island. I do not regret one second of the excursion.

Now that I am back here on good ole ‘Merican soil, I find myself thinking differently. I miss Fiji and the friends I made there. I think about how my actions and the actions of my country affect the world at large. I feel more mature and sure of myself. Trust me when I say this; studying abroad was one of the best things I have ever done. My experiences will stay with me the rest of my life and it comes highly recommended.

~Madeline Williams

Throwback Tuesday: Rome Edition

I am well aware that Throwback Thursday is already a “thing,” but I decided to make it come a little early this week. I am throwing it back to five months ago, specifically the first weekend in December, when I took a four-day trip to Rome.


Admittedly, at first, I was daunted by the thought of being alone in a foreign city. To make matters worse, everyone who I spoke to about being alone in Rome told me the same thing after giving me a disconcerting look: “Be careful; watch out for thieves; don’t go anywhere sketchy.” The looks threw me off more than the advice, because these people were concerned about my safety, which only made me more nervous. I survived the 24 hours of being by myself by playing it smart, sticking to touristy areas and getting back to my room before dark. Besides being worried about my safety, Rome was an amazing city to visit.


For all of you history buffs out there, Rome is teeming with historical sites to visit. I am not kidding when I say that you could walk straight into the middle of the city and see ruins of historical buildings surrounded by a booming metropolis area. So, as a history nerd, I was in love. One morning, I was not only the first inside the Colosseum, but I spent a combined 5 hours wandering around it and the Roman Forum right next door. The sites are so enlightening and informative about such an important era of the past.


Of course, I visited the Vatican as well. I did not get to meet the Pope, but getting to explore St. Peter’s Basilica and the Museums was well worth it.


And, the food. I have never been to a place where all the food is so delicious. I had pizza for dinner one night that was so thin-crusted it had to be eaten with a fork and knife. I went on a pasta tour of a patio one night and didn’t stop eating until my stomach was bursting. Gelato was for dessert. There was a fantastic gelato place outside of the Vatican and I am not ashamed to admit that I considered that to be my lunch for the day. I have no regrets. My mouth is watering just writing about it.


Despite fearing my impending death for a short period of time, my trip to Rome was one of my favorite weekend excursions. And, in weeks like these, with seemingly never-ending work, it is nice to think back to that warm Saturday afternoon when I was eating gelato and people watching in Rome.

A "refreshing" memory can improve a less-than-refreshing week.

A “refreshing” memory can improve a less-than-refreshing week.

~Rebecca Jaeger


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