Summer was fast approaching, and I was still pondering which summer program to do. I had become excited about the possibilities of marine biology as a future career, yet learning to scuba had been a dream of mine for several years. And then there was also the reality that, were I lucky enough to be accepted to both programs, I could do neither without a scholarship. The marine biology program was about $2,000, while the scuba program was a generous $3,500. All I could do was worry and wait.
In late March, I began a fruitless search for a summer program. I finally went to a school counselor, Ms. Gross, who told me about High School Marine Biology [HSMB], a program in the Bahamas sponsored by the Shedd Aquarium. After doing some research, I knew that this was a program I couldn’t pass up. I was excited, but worried. What if I didn’t get into the program? I thought I should have a back-up plan. After a few more weeks of research, I stumbled across Surf Camp in North Carolina. I looked at their website and found that they had a Surf and Scuba Camp where I could learn to surf and get my Professional Association of Diving Instructors [PADI] scuba certification. My excitement for this waned when I realized the high cost of the program. However, I filled out the applications for both programs. While I was waiting, I decided that if I were accepted into HSMB, I would definitely take the opportunity. The Bahamas would trump North Carolina.
June finally came, and my anxiety heightened. I checked the mailbox every day, looking for some kind of sign from either program. Finally, I saw a Shedd Aquarium packet with my name on it! I tore it open and yelled with delight. I had been accepted into HSMB 2009 with a $1,200 scholarship! I joyfully sent back my acceptance. The stress of finding a summer program had ended and I had already learned one thing: never wait so long to search for summer programs. Little did I know that this would be one of many things I would learn that summer.
All HSMB participants attended mandatory pre-trip classes at the Shedd Aquarium for the first week. We learned everything from identifying marine environments and the effects of land development on them, to how to identify fish by species. It was all so fascinating, and I found myself greatly anticipating the actual trip to the Bahamas. I couldn’t wait to be at sea!
I felt a chill of excitement as we arrived in Miami and bussed to the research vessel where we would be living for the next week as we traveled to Bimini Island. A few hours later, we were surrounded by endless sparkling blue water and small patches of land covered in emerald trees. I experienced adrenaline rushes every time we entered the water. We snorkeled at least twice a day, with the occasional surprise treat: a night snorkel or sunken ship exploration. During the night snorkels, I experienced extra heart leaps, as we had countless encounters with crustaceans, jellyfish, sea turtles, sharks, barracuda, and occasionally, dolphins. I realized that this was the happiest I had ever been in my life. The time flew by. I became wonderful friends with the other HSMB participants and I learned more about marine biology than I had ever thought possible in such a short time. Through this trip, I was able to discover my passion for marine life, as well as my hunger to learn.
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