An Unwelcome Vacation

A college campus during finals is filled with stress and emotions. Heavily-caffeinated and unshowered individuals scurry around, overcome with not only the strain of classes, but the overwhelming nostalgia of another semester ending. The stress reduces students to emotional wrecks, and study time soon becomes time spent crying over a stapler, or spilling out one’s heart and soul to one of the geckos in the biology department. Not that any of these occurrences have ever happened to me, mind you.

I especially dreaded this fall semester’s ending, because it meant that I would have to endure a two month break before I could start my semester abroad. Now, of course I love spending time with my family, and a little bit of relaxing is fine by me. But there was no way I could possibly endure two months of inactivity – sitting on the couch, watching Downton Abbey with my parents, and going to my mother’s yoga classes. If that was my life for two months, I might as well take up knitting and adopt a cat. I genuinely wished that I could completely skip over these two months and be in Boston, ready to start SEA Semester.

The Sea Education Association (SEA) is a field-based environmental education program where students spend six weeks taking classes at Woods Hole, an oceanographic research community on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. They then spend around six weeks at sea on a research vessel. Once aboard, along with academic and research duties, students serve as active crew members, navigating, cooking, and fixing toilets (so I’m told). Starting February 16th, I will spend six weeks at Woods Hole, taking classes and designing a research project to complete once aboard the ship. Starting at the end of March, I will fly to New Zealand with my classmates, and board the SSV Robert C. Seamans, a sailing research vessel. After six weeks at sea, we will arrive in Tahiti in early May.

So with that intimidating description, you may be wondering if I have any idea what I’m doing. The short answer is no. I’m from Idaho, and have never been to sea. Do I get seasick? Probably. Do I know which end of the ship is which? Maybe. But rest assured that I can swim, and can even tie a few climbing knots. Yup. I’m one-hundred percent qualified for this adventure.

I’ve been looking forward to SEA Semester for a very long time now. I’m eager for more research experience, and SEA’s work with plastics especially fascinates me. SEA has the longest record of ocean plastics to date, and their research is used around the world. I can’t wait to get elbow-deep in some real field research. Or a bucket of seaweed, at the very least.

That promise of real research was, unfortunately, two months away. Faced with the inevitable agony of two months at home, I formulated a plan to keep me busy. I signed up for an online computer programming class, started working at my local ski resort, Bogus Basin, and began helping out at my old horseback riding teacher’s place. Needless to say, I was no longer bored. In fact, I was almost no longer sleeping. Success! I thought. I wouldn’t give myself time to think about how bored I was, and I would be in Boston in no time!

But, as always, these two months weren’t about to let me off so easily. All I had wanted was a normal and tedious job to make me feel productive (and help pay tuition…) until I could happily depart for Boston. But no. Bogus decided to be different. As I began working in the kitchen there, I became charmed by the flow of the kitchen. Sharp knives, hot food, and inappropriate humor flew from every corner of the crowded space, and for some reason, it sucked me in. The people there sucked me in. From snowball fights in the kitchen to hernia jokes, these people were relentless in their ability to force their friendship upon me.

So now as SEA Semester inches nearer, I remember my wish from a couple months ago – to be done with this long break. Yet now, with this long-anticipated ending looming ahead, I find myself back in my finals week state. Soon, I’ll be talking to a squirrel about my feelings. And what would I say to that squirrel? I’d tell it how much I will miss the bickering, the dancing, and the bus conversations from all my Bogus pals.

So as this long winter break winds to a close, I can only hope that SEA Semester will make for an experience that’s just as painful for me to end as this unexpectedly delightful winter break.

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