Alumni Spotlight: Nick Thayer

Nick Thayer is from San Francisco, California. He studied abroad in Granada, St. Vincent, the Grenadines, and St. Lucia. He is currently spending a semester abroad in Marseille, France. He likes most watersports, sailing, SCUBA diving, programming, playing guitar and drums, and learning about science and technology.

Nick and friends in the Caribbean!

Highlights: The highlight of my academic experience on the trip was everything: from learning to become a boat, night, drift, wreck, deep, and rescue diver, to learning CPR and First Aid techniques which can be crucial in saving a victim's life, to learning about marine biology and different species that call the ocean home, to going on land (though it didn't happen often) and learning about Caribbean culture and cuisine, to learning about boats and sailing and boatmanship and the rules of the road when on the water, my brain was always running full throttle to understand this huge amount of information coming in. It was incredible.

The highlight of my overall experience was also just about everything. I made thirteen new friends in 21 days, I saw amazing things while diving, I saw what it's like in a little town of 5,000 people in the Caribbean and what the people who live there are like.
So, in addition to learning a lot of useful things that may save someone's life someday, I also had one of the best social and cultural experiences of my life.

Morning: Wake-up times during the three weeks ranged from 4:30 (one day when we had a twelve-hour sail) to 9 o'clock (on one or two days when we had nothing too big planned for the day). Every morning, two new cooks were assigned with the help of the job wheel and they cooked all three meals of the day plus any snacks we wanted. Breakfasts could be anything from muffins to pancakes to oatmeal and granola to cereal. When everyone was done eating, we would each go do our respective jobs, which were again assigned for the whole day by the job wheel. The jobs included dishwashing, toilet cleaning, cockpit rinsing, and salon management. By this time we were usually on our way to the destination of the day, whether it was a new island, a dive site, a town, or a hike trail.

Check out that waterfall!

Afternoon: Lunches varied a lot from one to another: we usually had lunch on the boat while sailing or while anchored, but we also often went into town for lunch. We even had lunch in the rainforest one day. The food was almost always something quick, like sandwiches or macaroni and cheese, so that we could eat and get on with our day. After lunch, we would normally continue with the day's activities, whether they were sailing, diving, hiking, or being in town. On a couple of occasions, we spent the afternoon on a makeshift rope swing (made from a line tied to the top of the mast), playing with the locals and relaxing.

Evening: Evenings were my favorite part of most days. We had time to shower (or rather, "shower": we had ten seconds of fresh water and the rest had to be done in the ocean), play cards, listen to music, talk, eat, and just slow down a little bit after a long day in the sun (or rain). Many nights, a small group (3-4) of us went out for a night dive. Whether it was at a new dive site or one we dove earlier that day, it gave all the participants an entirely new perspective on diving.

Before every single dinner of the trip, we had what were called rituals. The leader of the day would say one quote on any topic he/she wanted, and then would make a toast--maybe to the dive that day, maybe to someone on the boat who did something cool, maybe to someone who died a hundred years ago. After that came the squeeze, which is where everyone holds hands with their neighbors around the table and the leader squeezes one of his hands and then the recipient of that squeeze sends it to her other neighbor, and so on. Then we finally got to eat, and when everyone was done we each said our high and low points of the day and finished it off with a fact, a story, or a quote.