Knox Senior Dives into Experiential Learning through SEA Semester
March 29, 2018
Karen Lynch '18 (pictured at left) on the research vessel SSV Corwith Cramer with a classmate.
by Elise Goitia '18
Many Knox students study abroad in a myriad of countries. Other students forego the traditional route of reaching their destination—and take to the seas for their study abroad experience.
International relations major Karen Lynch '18 enrolled in SEA Semester, a 12-week program where students take classes and conduct research aboard the research vessel SSV Corwith Cramer.
During SEA Semester, students chronicle their voyage, meet with local experts, and conduct field-based research on a wide variety of interdisciplinary topics.
"I'm getting the chance to see more of the environmental policy and conservation movement, which is both cool and relevant in the global sense," commented Lynch. "I also have gotten to meet people in different areas around the Caribbean, which is at the forefront of some of these conversations, and get more of the social political and anthropological side."
In early January, Lynch and her classmates arrived at SEA Semester's oceanographic research community for six weeks of preparatory coursework, including a visit to Brown University's John Carter Brown Library and the Marine Biological Laboratory Library to access rare archives from centuries of previous Caribbean voyages.
Then, they set sail, their voyage starting at St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands. They traveled down to Portsmouth in Dominica and to Samana in the Dominican Republic, and then to Port Antonio in Jamaica and Santiago, Cuba, before making their way back up to Florida.
Lynch (front row, second from left) with her classmates and faculty. Photo taken by Soraya Simi.
"I spent quite a bit of time seasick, and in that vein spent some of my time on watch, steering the ship, making sure everything is functioning, et cetera," she said. "My watch group jokingly began calling me the ‘aloft lookout,' but it gave me time to study constellations and cloud formations as we sailed."
SEA Semester is one of more than 90 different programs worldwide that are available to Knox students.
During the program, students gathered data by snorkeling in coral reefs, and also visited the Marine Mammal Sanctuary of Silver Bank in the Dominican Republic to study whale behavior. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientist Dr. Genevieve Davis accompanied their expedition to gather acoustic data on humpback whale populations as part of the Caribbean Humpback Acoustic Monitoring Program (CHAMP).
Most significantly, said Lynch, SEA Semester challenges students to think critically, and she added that her greatest takeaway is how much she's capable of doing in such a short time.
"Because of the challenges of the program, I feel confident in my ability to solve problems in high-tension situations and come up with good solutions to complex and important problems," she said. "I feel more prepared to graduate and move into work that is truly challenging."