(That is “Good day!” in Papiamentu, the official language of Bonaire.)
My name is Garrett, and I am a rising junior at the University of Richmond as a Mathematics and Biology double major, with an as-yet-undeclared minor in Integrated Science. However, this upcoming semester I will be studying abroad in Bonaire as a part of the CIEE program in Tropical Marine Ecology and Conservation.
First thing’s first. I know most of you are asking “Bon-where?” Well, it is in fact a small Caribbean island off the coast of Venezuela. It is a special municipality of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and was formerly part of the Lesser Antilles. It is located in the southern Caribbean as a part of the ABC islands, along with its neighbors Aruba and Curaçao.
The island itself is approximately 114 square miles and is home to about 17,500 people. To give a size reference, it is less than half of the size of New York City (that’s including all five Boroughs) and has a population size that falls somewhere between the undergraduate student populations of UVA and Virginia Tech.
Additionally, you may be wondering about CIEE. Well, my specific program is not run through a foreign university like many people would think of a stereotypical study abroad experience. Instead, my study abroad experience is run through the Council on International Educational Exchange or CIEE. Through their program, I will be staying at a research station, with 12 other students, in Kralendijk, Bonaire, where we will be taking classes in marine biology and conducting our own marine research. And that is precisely why I chose this program. Not only can I take upper level biology classes that transfer credit back to UR, but I will also be getting a once in a lifetime experience living on a Caribbean island steps away from the ocean, where I will be scuba diving for my classes and gaining firsthand experience in a potential career field. In a week’s time, I will be out in the water with the coral reef as my classroom.
I can’t believe it. I leave in 4 days!
It may be because just four days ago I was moving my sister into her dorm room for her first semester at Arcadia, but right now, I’m experiencing the same emotional rollercoaster that came just before I moved off to college two years ago. Nervous because I don’t exactly know what is to come. Detached because I know all of my friends at UR are having a great first week of school. Excited because I know it’s going to be an amazing experience. Worried because I still have yet to pack. Stressed because, apparently, memorizing 100 fish ID’s in a week is something I also need to fit into my schedule. Eager because everyone tells me Bonaire has some of the most beautiful diving in the world. Whatever my emotions are now, I tell myself that I have to stay open-minded and be ready for new experiences.
Change is on the horizon, but it’s going to be the best sunrise I’ve seen in awhile!
Stay tuned for my adventures!