The Science Exchange Program has been paramount to my collegiate experience as an undergraduate marine biology major. By fully immersing myself into field work and a new culture, I was able to test my limits and gain a better understanding of not only the marine science field, but of myself as a person.
When first applying to the program, I was impressed by the timely and thoughtful responses from TSE staff, Katherine Comer-Santos and Elizabeth Whitman. These amazing women were able to place me in the best internship for me, which happened to be in Abaco, Bahamas. This was close to home as I am currently living in South Florida and it fit my research interests of in-water sea turtle biology.
At first the cost of the internship was daunting and made me not want to go through with it, but thankfully I was able to get a scholarship through TSE, as well as through my university. With those combined, 80% of the cost was covered and I only had to pay for my plane ticket! Having known what I know now about the internship, I would have gladly paid for it full out of pocket.
During the internship, I learned an astronomical amount of practical skills, including data collection techniques, data software, and statistical analyses. The most rewarding part of the internship was the ability to conduct my own research project. This allowed me to gain the experience of completing a project from start to finish.
The days were long during the internship and I definitely gained a lot of muscle. This internship is definitely hard core and requires a lot of physical work and sweat, but the outcomes made it all worth while. Being able to handle sea turtles and observe them in their natural environment was a dream come true!
We were able to have fun on the side too, like going out to restaurants, exploring the islands, and getting to know some of the locals. At times it almost felt like I was on vacation!
By the end of the internship, I can definitely say I grew both as a scientist and a person. I made life long friendships along with some unforgettable memories. To this day I have been utilizing the connections I have made through networking with other interns and people on the island.
Even after the internship was over, I still was able to participate in various things that would have never happened without this experience. I was able to present a poster on my project at the International Sea Turtle Symposium in Las Vegas. I also traveled to the North American Echinoderm Conference in Massachusetts to give an oral presentation on my project.
This opportunity is truly like no other. I can guarantee that if you whole heartedly take advantage of this internship, you will gain more than you could possibly imagine. I am so thankful for the friendships I have made as well as the knowledge I gained during my time in the Bahamas. I implore you to apply to this program while you can and don't waste your time looking for something better because you won't be able to find it!
The only way this program could be improved is offering a larger variety of internship locations and opportunities.