Exploring the seas in Bermuda: how studying the sciences inside and outside of the ocean enhanced students’ lives

Rachel Dvareckas, Herald Contributor

Whether it’s a three-week adventure in Italy or London or a semester away at sea, RWU encourages its students to utilize all of the study abroad opportunities that are available. Hundreds of students choose to spend either a few weeks or an entire semester working on their majors in other countries. Briana Cooper, a junior biology and chemistry major, and Rachel Howard, a senior marine biology major, took advantage of the study abroad program at the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences.

Cooper and Howard spent the fall 2018 semester studying marine biology in Bermuda, where they spent much of their time diving and conducting research.

“I chose to study abroad because of the opportunities that the program offered, such as scuba diving experience, scientific diver and advanced diver certification and a month-long research experience of my choice,” Cooper said.

“I studied abroad because of the benefits of the program. I had gone abroad as a winter intersession student, so I knew I wanted to experience something like that again. Studying abroad is a resume booster and a life-changing experience wrapped into one adventure,” Howard said.

The work they did in Bermuda was very intensive, but both girls found it incredibly rewarding. Cooper says it was similar to the workload found on the RWU campus. The group of students studying at the Institute became very close and went on field trips to visit caves and swim. They also had the opportunity to explore and go to pubs and bars.

“This experience impacted me the most during the last month of the program, when I got the opportunity to participate in marine bacteria research in a microbiology lab. I learned a handful of laboratory protocols and techniques and I was exposed to a career that I had not had the chance to experience yet. This benefitted me because I had recently changed my major from marine biology to a biology/chemistry dual major, so this program gave me my first experience in a field that I am more interested in,” Cooper said.

“My favorite part of my experience was the diving. It was unique to this program and it was extremely rewarding to receive the scientific diver certification. Additionally, we were diving in a beautiful location and got to see parts of the ocean most people only dream of seeing,” Howard said.

Cooper believes students should study abroad to gain new experiences and explore different cultures, while exposing themselves to diversity. Studying abroad also pushes many people out of their comfort zones and causes them to become more independent.

“What I would say to students thinking about study abroad is do it and don’t think twice. Do it while you’re young, and while you’re in school since it is apart of your normal RWU tuition. I think every single student should experience studying abroad no matter their field. I would tell students that if you are afraid of regretting it, you will not — whether it goes great or not so great, you will learn so much more about yourself and even your career interests,” Cooper said.

Information about study abroad programs can be found on the RWU website under the Academics tab.