22 wonderful days in Eleuthera
By: Kelsey Jacobsen, high school alumna High School Study Abroad, Marine Biology
While the buzzing engines of our eight-passenger plane hummed in my ears, I admired the expanse of perfectly clear blue water and swirling sand ridges far below me. I gazed around at the six complete strangers seated around me, six of the twenty-two high schoolers I would be spending the next three weeks of my life with. As I regarded each face, I wondered what I would learn from each of these people: where they come from, what they would add to our group and what kind of an impression they would leave for me to take home after our twenty-two days ahead.
This being my third Broadreach trip, I had become accustomed to the apprehensive butterflies one feels when beginning an adventure like the one I was about to become a part of. Traveling alone to a foreign place to live with people you have never met takes courage, but I knew that we would soon overcome our inhibitions and become comfortable with each other. I only hoped that this experience would be half as rewarding as my previous two.
As I expected, our group readily became a close-knit one. From soap fights in the kitchen during dish duty to sharing of clothing to midnight study sessions, we not only became comfortable around each other, but formed a friendly community that everyone was a part of. With such a small group, everybody got to share time with all of the other Broadreachers, whether it was through being dive buddies, bunk bed mates or just chilling in the common room with the warm breeze and Bob Marley playing in the background. Often, I found myself thinking of how lucky I was to be in such a beautiful place with so many inspiring individuals, friends that I never would have made if I hadn’t chosen to come on this trip. Even though our group came from a range of drastically different backgrounds, we each brought a little bit of our homes with us to the Island School to form our own dynamic lifestyle.
Along with living in this community, though, came responsibilities. However, whether we realized it or not, these responsibilities were not burdens, but rather chances to learn more about ourselves. During the rotations of leadership within our group members, it was interesting to see everyone’s differing social styles and to think about where my own fit in. Through operating as a team within our motley group of friends, it was interesting to observe how much other people’s personalities blossomed from the beginning of the trip to the end. I feel that mine did the same.
Of course, my experience really has to be credited to our counselors, because they were the ones who really kept the wheels of the trip running. During my time at the beautiful Island School, I learned so much from our five fantastic counselors. Everything from reef ecology and the life cycle of a jellyfish, to pursuing your dreams and living in the moment were covered, whether inside or out of the classroom. I looked up to every one of our instructors, who each had information and stories that they were eager to share. Whether through the five-thirty wake-up nudges before dawn dives or their not-so-hip moves at the dance party in the gazebo, they radiate positive energy. Also, it was great to finally be surrounded by people who, like me, have a strong interest in marine biology. To be able to learn from them in such an ideal environment was a chance I will never see again.
There is no better feeling than to jump from the moist Bahamian heat into the perfectly cool, blue Caribbean water. Like the adventures we had on the ocean’s dry-land counterpart, we could not expect what would happen when plunging head-first into them. However, any expectations were met when we got to see sharks, curious sea turtles, delicate nudibranchs, color-changing octopuses, rays of all kinds and too many other things to mention. There is a certain tranquility to being underwater. With no means of communication besides hand gestures or fruitless attempts to speak through a regulator, everything is silent. Often the most relaxing part of my day was spent beneath the waves.
As our adventure progressed, new experiences awaited our every turn and countless moments were shared, which only continued to bring our group closer. It is these moments, like cliff jumping at night into bioluminescent waters, chatting in the sun on the back porch of the dorms or playing with a curious remora at a safety stop, that really made our summer together so memorable.
When the day arrived for us to unload our drawers of clothing into our suitcases, scrub the dorms and load into the cars for one last time, the group reminisced about our time spent together. The ride to the tiny airport was a somber one, yet everyone took advantage of our last few hours together by recalling stories from our beloved Island School. We knew that once we returned home, none of our other friends would understand the jokes and memories that we were a part of.
After a teary farewell to our counselors, we boarded the Twin Air jets that would return us to civilization. I watched the island of Eleuthera disappear into the turquoise water and thought about all of the knowledge I now had about the ocean and all of the things in it. For years to come I will appreciate all of the intangible lessons that I learned about in this paradise, which are equally as valuable.
As we walked together through the Fort Lauderdale airport, a smile broke across my face. I remembered the first day, the apprehension and the new faces. As we pushed through the bustle of the terminal corridor, we were no longer twenty-two indifferent strangers with our own agendas, but a group of close friends, walking together.