It was surreal. The boat skidded over choppy waves as we passed lush, green islands with radiant, sandy beaches. The ocean spray was cool to my face as I leaned over the rail and squinted to scan the horizon. I was looking for the afternoon’s destination, but what I found was my future. We were in Cairns, Australia, gliding effortlessly on top of one of the Seven Wonders of the World: the Great Barrier Reef. As the boat raced towards the dive site it became increasingly clear to me that this dreamlike experience was actually happening. I was about to check off one of the most seemingly impossible occurrences on my bucket list, and I was only seventeen! I was ecstatic to say the least. When we reached the station I stepped off the boat, bursting with anticipation. I couldn’t wait to hit the water. For nearly my entire life, I had known that I was destined to a study marine biology, but my personal experience in the field was sorely lacking. This was my opportunity to authentically see the best and brightest marine biologists in action. It was a glimpse into all I hoped my future would be. I tried to soak it all in as the staff explained their work and what to expect from the day. I observed each instructor that came out of the water with a specimen to put in the observation-touch tank, filled with starfish, sea-cucumbers, and sea-urchins. After taking in all that I could above water, the time finally came. I grabbed my fins, mask and snorkel and braced myself for the moment I had waited so long for. I made my way down the slippery ladder onto the ledge that was submerged just below the surface. I sat down on the edge, waist deep in water with my legs dangling into the unknown. I slipped into my gear and stared down at the blur of colors from what awaited me once I dived down. I got butterflies as the waves playfully pushed me towards the edge. Finally, I gave in. I broke the surface to find a still calm underneath. The brilliance of the reef gleamed from below me with too much beauty to take in with one look. After a brief moment of clumsiness, I was able to maneuver in my gear instinctively. Schools of tropical fish surrounded me in a swirl of color, not seeming to mind that I was among them. The closer to the reef I got, the more I was aware of what actually went on. I could have spent hours admiring the way the anemones danced in the current as clownfish curiously poked their heads out of the swaying tentacles, or racing the parrotfish that darted along the reef floor. There was so much to explore, so much to discover! I thought to myself, “I could spend my life in the water like this”. In that moment, I realized with the utmost certainty that I was going to dedicate my education to studying life underwater. I was to become a marine biologist. My experience in Cairns revealed to me that if I was to ever work in such a place where I would be so privileged as to study on the Great Barrier Reef, a university education is invaluable to me. A career as a marine biologist will require me to relentlessly pursue educational success beyond high school, and I am committed to do just that. My success in college will define my future, and I am determined to make that future of achievement a reality.
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