Embedded Course: Curacao
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Erik Kerns

Hometown: Harrisburg, PA
Major: Psychology
Minor: Marine Biology

How did you learn about this opportunity?

I found out about this opportunity by meeting with my Marine Science Minor advisor, Iliana Baums, who runs the trip. She suggested this course would help me to fulfill my future goals in Marine Science.

Tell us a little bit about your experience.

I had an amazing experience throughout this spring break trip to Curacao. The people I went with were great, Curacao was beautiful, and I learned a lot about coastal biology and the culture on the island. Every day we were either doing research in the water or traveling the island to learn about its culture and biology. Everyone had to write a research proposal before going on the trip. When we got to Curacao, we sat down in panels and decided which research projects we would focus on; mine was selected along with 5 others. The projects took place on coral reefs, in mangroves, and in a lab on the island. We did not use SCUBA, so we snorkeled at all of the cites. I am SCUBA certified, so in some ways snorkeling made it more difficult to conduct some of the research, especially when it required us to dive to deep depths. But, I am glad that I had this experience because it has made me an all-around better diver. The only complaint that I have about trip is that it was too short.

"I did not just learn about coastal biology, I had hands-on experience with it and learned how to conduct research on it."

How did this experience impact you academically?

I learned a lot during this trip. I learned so much more than I would have sitting in a classroom. I did not just learn about coastal biology, I had hands-on experience with it and learned how to conduct research on it. I also learned a lot about myself and the culture on the island. Learning about biology in a classroom is not enough. It's important to experience it and that is what I did on this trip. I feel like I learned a semester's worth of material in a week's span of time. From talking to people who lived on the island, I learned a lot about their culture, education system, and their day to day lives. This gave me another perspective on life, which helped me grow as an individual.

What are your career goals or plans? How did this experience impact them?

I am a Psychology major with a minor in Marine Science. Psychology is a great field and offers a lot of opportunity, but my passion is in Marine Science. This trip helped me to realize this even more. My challenge is figuring out how to use my degree to fulfill my goal as a Marine Scientist. This trip showed me what research is like in Marine Science. Some of it is fun, but other parts are cumbersome. Knowing this will affect what direction I go in when I apply to graduate school in the future.

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