I had the incredible opportunity this past May to share my current undergraduate research at the 39th Association of Marine Laboratories of the Caribbean (AMLC) Scientific Conference in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. My research consisted of the growth and mortality rate of a photosynthetic sea slug, Elysia subornata, which is found native in the Caribbean, depending on its diet.
The conference was an amazing learning experience that enabled me to network with universities and individuals in the scientific community from all over the Caribbean. I was able to observe up and coming research techniques, attend a coral microfragmentation workshop hosted by none other than Dr. David Vaughnan, and create both professional and personal relationships with individuals just as passionate about research and conservation as I am.
Since my time abroad is coming to an end I thought I’d share more pictures. Being abroad has been an amazing experience and I am grateful to the honors program for being part of making it a reality. I took classes at the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona’s study abroad campus, which is called Casa Convalescencia and it’s located on the historical site of the Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau. During this semester, I got to visit the hospital which is a World Heritage site and an icon of art-nouveau architecture here in Barcelona. I had the chance to visit other UT students studying abroad in Copenhagen. Also, today, April 23rd is Sant Jordi day, which is kind of like Valentine’s day here, books and roses are given to loved ones and the street sales are incredible; my professor who teaches my Culture Without State class, which focuses on Catalonia, took us on a field trip to see the Catalan culture in action. Casa Batlló, like the whole city, was covered in roses and the streets were flooded with people buying books. I’m sad my time abroad is ending but I also can’t wait to be back in Tampa.
On April 13th, Victoria Sunseri gave an Honors Symposium where she discussed her travel as the recipient of the Timothy M. Smith Inspiration Through Exploration Award. Victoria traveled to Sri Lanka where she volunteered with a non-profit that helps women who have been part of human trafficking operations. She spent close to a month working with the organization then spent some time traveling in the area.
Honors student Samantha Stewart received an International Travel Award through the Honors Program to help fund her travel study course to Australia. She has just returned and shared some photos from her trip with us. As the photos illustrate, Samantha had a great time and learned a lot. Here is what she said of the trip:
I want to thank you all again for awarding me with a scholarship for the travel course to Australia. I had an incredible time and I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to go to such an amazing place. I’ve included some pictures that I took during my trip.
My time studying at Oxford University has seemed to fly by! I only have a few more weeks until I return home to Florida and I’m just so happy with my experience here. It has been quite snowy in Oxford over the past month, which I have thoroughly enjoyed, as I am originally from New York and we definitely don’t get this weather in Florida!
Following the completion of my tutorials, I was able to do some traveling and the first place I went was Paris, France. I visited the Louvre and Eiffel Tower, amongst other places, and it was truly captivating.
I feel that I have learned more about myself and have developed more independence through this experience. Having to research a topic myself and glean the important information to put into an essay is quite different to the normal “lecture-style” of teaching back home. While different, it was really effective because I knew that I needed to completely understand the topic in order to write about it and discuss it with my tutor. Living and learning in a new country can be a scary thing, but once you embrace it and get used to the way of life, it becomes something so unique and incredible. I feel that this experience has helped me develop myself in ways that I would not have been able to back at home and it has helped me prepare for my future education at pharmacy school. I would highly recommend this experience, as it is a truly one-of-a-kind experience that many people do not have the opportunity to take advantage of.
Things are going great here in Oxford. It has been a little bittersweet now that the term has officially ended, but overall it has been an amazing term. I am still working on my research on British butterflies with one of my tutors. We are getting ready to analyze the data for the two species of butterflies that we decided to work with: The High Brown Fritillary and the Dark Green Fritillary. Sadly, my other tutorial, Marine Vertebrate Zoology, has ended; however, my last essay I had to write was my favorite as I got to write about my favorite animals: sharks and stingrays.
In addition to my studies, I was able to take a trip to Portsmouth recently and visit the British Naval Yards. It was absolutely incredible being able to see some of the old battleships and learn about the history of the British Navy.
In other news, my rowing team was able to qualify for the biggest race of the term: Torpids. This is a race that lasts 4 days where boats try to “bump” each other in order to earn a set of blades. This was the first year since 1999 where Christ Church Boat Club was able to have 3 women’s boats qualify and compete in Torpids; however, there was one force that held us back in Torpids: mother nature. During the week of Torpids, the “beast from the east” decided to visit the UK and with it came a lot of snow which held the city in a standstill. Shops were closed, tutorials were cancelled, and 2 of the 4 days of Torpids had to be cancelled completely. Regardless of the snow and the bitterly cold weather, it was an amazing rowing season and I am so lucky I was able to compete in a few races with my amazing team.
This entire experience has been incredible and it has taught me so much about independence, confidence, and perseverance. I have had to learn how to problem solve, but also how to ask for help when I need it. I have learned not just in an educational sense, but I have learned about myself and about life and that will stay with me forever.
Things are going great over here in Oxford. The tutorials I am taking are Community Ecology and Marine Vertebrate Zoology and I love both of them. With my Community Ecology tutorial, my tutor is having me do research to study the distribution of two butterflies that are native to the UK. We are using mathematical models to determine if distance affects the competition between the species. In my marine vertebrate zoology tutorial, some of the topics I have explored are life in the deep sea and how the vertebrates have evolved to live in the sea. My tutors push me to think outside the box or in my case, think outside the submarine, to make connections that I had never even begun to think about.
In addition to school, I have been able to do a few extracurricular activities as well. I took a trip to London to visit Westminister. I was able to see the Abbey, Trafalgar Square, and the beautiful Buckingham Palace. I also have taken a trip to visit Cambridge, which is also known as “the other place” to see how it differs from the bustling city of Oxford. While there is a competition between which University is better, I think both have qualities that make them equally great.
One thing that is great about Oxford (and many of the cities in the UK) is that most of the museums are free, so when I need to take a quick break from studying I can pop into a museum without having to spend the whole day there. My favorite museum I have visited so far is the History of Science museum. They have a wide variety of different tools they used to study Science, Mathematics, and Physics in prior times and they show how the tools developed into the ones we use today.
My favorite extracurricular I have done so far while here in Oxford is joining the rowing team at Christ Church. I should inform you that I have never done rowing before coming here, so it was a very tough few practices (and many sore days after) as I had to learn how to row from scratch and my body had to adjust to using different muscles. However, I have loved the challenge of learning this new skill and it has been a great way to meet the people in my college and get away from my studies.
This experience so far has been unbelievable and I have to keep reminding myself that this is in fact real life.