Best Day Abroad by Rylie Talmadge

I made it! I’m finally here! I step off the boat and take in the moment. It is one of those Shoot-I-am-just-so-thankful-moments. It is a WOW moment. A Bigness moment. A life is GOOD moment. All the little logistics leading up to this point no longer matter. In this moment, life is as good as it gets.

After weeks of preparation, lectures, excursions, and planning, I have finally arrived at Misali Island for the final month of my program. This part of the program is referred to as the ISP (or Independent Study Project) where we design and conduct a research project for the duration of a month. As my study is focused on the threat of coral reef decline on fish diversity, I decided to conduct my study on the fringe reefs surrounding the small, uninhabited island called Misali off the Coast of Pemba Island, Zanzibar. As an island, isolated from civilization and development, the two rangers living on the island ferry me from the mainland with freshwater, and provisions to last two weeks. I am beyond appreciative for the global classroom, hands-on involvement, and fully immersed experience my study abroad has offered so far, yet what lies ahead is truly incomparable.

After the hour and a half long boat ride, I heaved off my pack, set up my tent, and lugged the freshwater jugs to the ranger station, yet none of the weight, heat, nor bugs could diminish my sheer excitement. Once more, I looked around at my surroundings and soaked in the rays beaming across the blue, BLUE water. Just standing there, I was in awe of the island’s sheer, untouched beauty. Dipping my toes into the crystal-clear water sent waves of excitement through me. I ventured further and further into the deep until I could no longer reach. I pulled on my mask and fins and plunged under the surface. A whole new world revealed. A breathtakingly stunning, foreign world, filled with schools of fish of every color and size and a coral shelf stretching into the abyss. As I resurfaced for air, I knew in that moment, how lucky I was to be here. All the challenges leading up to now simply washed away. It is hard to articulate the dreamlike feeling and natural splendor evoked by the island; however, I can say with certainty that today, this day, is one I won’t forget. This day. All of this. All the laughter and adventure and true life-lesson moments. The building memory moments… I have never felt more thankful for this

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