After spending two week straight on a boat with 14 people, there is definitely some advice to give to future students. It was an absolutely amazing experience but it is something you need to really make sure you are up for and passionate about before signing up. It is not just a tropical island vacation, you have to be ready to get immersed into a lifestyle in which your “normal” is completely stripped away. Wifi is only available for a few hours total of the entire trip, fresh water is limited, which means, so are showers and there is no alone time. The advice I could give is to go in ready to come out of your shell if you are an introvert, be willing to lend a hand at all times, wear your sunscreen even if there is an overcast and pay attention to your ears when learning to dive so they do not get hurt.
This experience prepared me for my future career by allowing me to find out how my land legs adjust to a life at sea, learn how to be an effective crew member and how to sail, how to dive as I earned my open water certification and I can now dive up to 60 ft deep whenever I want! I also learned very important aspects of coral reefs that I could work to help conserve in the future. It also gave me a great connection to Dr. Day and the great other students going into the same field.
I was very proud of myself for completing every single dive we went on this trip, which was one, sometimes more than one almost every day of the trip. We even did a dive at night!This can have a lot of strain on your body and ears and with some people having to sit out due to sickness or ear problems, I was really proud I was able to complete every single one. I was also able to push myself to come out of my shell in many ways and make 10 amazing friends, who all have the same passions as me.
This trip helped me not only find myself, but it also helped me find a new love that could lead me down a path I never thought I would go down in Marine Biology. I always wanted to become a certified diver, but I never thought I would love it as much as I did on this trip. Diving makes me feel like I have a superpower. It makes me feel more alive than I ever have, even though it is an activity that could turn deadly if you are not careful. Every single problem you have in life or even just in your head, disappears as soon as you descend and until you take the first breath of real air when you come back up as cheesy as that sounds. I thought this trip would help me narrow down if I wanted to do field work or become a marine vet, but with a dive certification under my belt and the new opportunities that this opens up, I am at a roadblock again with what I want to do with my career, but I found a new hobby I want to do for the rest of my life. I want to dive anywhere, everywhere and all the time, whether it be for science or recreation, this trip showed me that I want to be underwater as much as I can for the rest of my life.
This trip also made me realize how much I love going abroad and doing anything along the lines of internships, work or just studying abroad would be amazing and I hope to do it again.
If anyone reading this is or was interested in the MANTA trip to the British Virgin Islands, this is your sign. Myself and everyone on the trip has talked non stop about how it has affected all of us. It will help you figure out so much about yourself and it will be a life changing, one in a lifetime experience. You could become a diver and pirate of the Caribbean all in one trip! 🙂