All my life I have always wanted to do two things: make a difference in someone’s life, and be in the water. This summer was my first opportunity to do both of these things. The beginning of my summer consisted of conducting leadership workshops for high school students within my role as a state officer for the South Carolina FFA Association. I also organized and helped to present an annual state FFA conference at Clemson University. Every day was a new challenge and new reward, and after it was all over I was convinced that there was no possible way my summer could get any better. I proved myself wrong when I wound up in the Florida Keys only a few weeks later.
My first day in the water was one of those rare experiences in life that I know I could never forget. Seeing all of the things firsthand that I had always looked at in an aquarium or watched on discovery channel was something that was absolutely incredible to me. Every day was like this for me, it held something new and unbelievable. From swimming with sharks to capturing juvenile lobsters, I began to learn just how much I loved the ocean, and life in it.
It was not just my love of the ocean that grew during my time in the Keys, but also my respect and reverence for science. Almost every day we would go to two or more of our fourteen sites and observe parrotfish, count the number of different species present, and analyze the condition of our caged corals. This in itself was incredible to take part of, but it was the relationship I learned that all of these parts have to the whole ecosystem that I found fascinating. Every site was different, and the interactions among the organisms while similar, were also varied. Seeing these ecosystems firsthand convinced me even further of how important research and the people who conduct it are to the sustainability of life in the ocean.
Before joining this Creative Inquiry, an experience like the one I had this summer was merely a dream for me. Becoming dive certified, staying a month in the Florida Keys, learning about an ecosystem in a world that seems completely different from our own, discovering that this is for sure the career for me and spending time with some of the most amazing people I’ve ever met were just a few of the many reasons that this class is the most important (and obviously most fun) one I have yet to take at Clemson. Although my other classes have helped to make me feel more prepared for a life after graduation, it is because of this one class that I know I will have the confidence to pursue a career that I will love and one that I will be much more prepared for. All I can say to this program as well as Dr. Childress and Kylie is thank you for this opportunity, I will continue to make the most of my time in this class as well as at Clemson.