I distinctly remember standing on the dock, weighed down by countless pieces of heavy equipment and scared to death. Anxiously looking down at the water, I knew it was too late to turn around. Letting go of everything that seemed natural and safe, I jumped. After briefly struggling in the waves on the surface of the water, I gulped my last breath and began my descent. The silence was eerie. I looked up towards the sky and panicked. With great hesitation and unease, I took a breath. Surprised by the humming of my exhale and the tickle of bubbles streaming past my face, I realized I was alive. I could breathe underwater.

It’s all about taking chances. My decision to travel to the Bahamas, earn my scuba certification, and take a marine biology course was made on nothing but a whim; a gut instinct. I thought I would love it, but if not, at least I would come home knowing a lot about fish. Of course I loved it.

From the moment I arrived, I was inspired by the community, the feeling of independence, the experience. We probably could have been studying the most banal, dull subjects and I still would have been sucked in by the passion of those around me. This was a community I could not wait to join. Tunicates, coral growth morphologies, and marine crustaceans excited me. I suddenly wanted to be a marine biology nerd.

In connection with my studies, scuba diving allowed me to witness marine ecology firsthand, and I quickly became enthralled with the ocean, the great unknown. Scuba diving became not only my most common daydream and favorite activity, but an academic interest as well. Just as a visit to a museum would be more worthwhile with an understanding of the artists and their styles, my diving has been defined by my knowledge of and curiosity about marine ecology.

I clearly recall arriving at the campus in St. Louis, anxious for what I would find, and with great anticipation and awe. From the beginning of my college search, I have had a strong gut feeling that Washington University is right for me. At the sight of the dignified buildings, lush quads, intertwining walkways, and beaming students, my instinct was confirmed. I am intrigued by programs such as the Pathfinder Program in Environmental Sustainability. From my own experience with scuba diving, I have learned that I am exuberant for what I love and work best when my peers are as enthused. The small group of intellectually excited students with similar interests at Washington University, focusing together and evolving into various majors, is another community I cannot wait to join.

My gut instincts brought me to one of the best decisions I have ever made. I feel the same pull towards Washington University in St. Louis. On the verge of discovering who I am and what I will be doing, all my instincts say that Washington University is the right place to find out.

-Merrill Rudd