Alumni Spotlight: Hannah Yates

Hannah is a Florida native who is currently a high school student. She enjoys spending her summers traveling around the world and seeing new places, and her favorite hobbies besides traveling are sailing and diving.

Why did you choose this program?

It incorporated so many of the things I enjoy! Sailing, living on boats, seeing new places, exploring, snorkeling-- you name it, it had something I enjoyed. It was such a perfect fit for me. I knew once I visited the website and read more about the program that it was the one for me! I also knew people that went on the program and loved it.

What did your program provider (or university) assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

They assisted me with all the information I needed about finances, flights, how the program runs, safety info, packing lists, etc.! Myself and my parents organized my flights (although you can book them via a travel agent used by provider) and we went shopping for all the supplies I needed for the trip, and we packed my bag.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

Make sure that you are ready and willing to work hard and make a difference! Be aware that if you are prone to homesickness that maybe this program is not right for you.

I am very independent, but I realize that some students aren't. Also, you don't need as much stuff as you think you do!! Pack minimally: it will be so much easier to keep everything organized!

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

You wake up pretty early. Usually, I slept on the deck and woke up at about 7 with the sun. All the shipmates help out with all the meals, boat work, and chores.

There are many different activities to do, no day is ever the same! One day you could be turtle tagging, the next surveying coral, another day taking a hike and cleaning up a beach, or planting trees and helping repair schools or houses, etc.

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

I guess it was flying alone for the first time, and also I was worried about the social situation. However, both turned out okay! The staff were there in the airports to help us on our journeys and were available to call if a flight was delayed or canceled.

The social situation was also fine! Again, the staff really helped make sure everything stayed on the rails.

What was the most memorable experience on your trip?

Definitely when we helped clean up the rubble that remained of this poor lady's house in Leverick Bay, BVI. It was completely wiped out by Hurricane Irma and all that remained was a few belongings. She and her young daughter were living out of a tent on the property.

They wanted us to help find her Bible, a special picture in a frame from her wedding day and a photo album in the rubble. Surprisingly, we found all three. It was overwhelming to see how these small items affected this woman so much. To her, they were everything, and despite her losing her whole house, she was beyond happy to be reunited with some of the comforts of her home.

We remained there to help clear the land so that it would be possible for her home to be rebuilt the following year. I will never forget that experience, and I truly think that it made me a more empathetic, globally-aware human.