Tessa Markham - 2015 Program Participant

Why did you decide to apply for an international program?

I have always loved traveling. My Dad's entire family lives in England, so for longer than I can remember I've been going to Europe. I love learning about different cultures and seeing how people live their lives, and that ruled out domestic trips. I had never been to the Caribbean before, but knew that I was going to be taking Latin American studies when senior year started; I thought it’d be amazing to go and experience a place I'd be learning about for months, in a way that most people wouldn't have the chance to. I chose to learn about the Caribbean through science and exploration, instead of on a cruise ship, and I'm so happy that I did.

School of fish in the Caribbean

The fish were so unafraid of us that I didn't need to use zoom in to get this picture on my second wreck dive.

Why did you choose this specific Broadreach program?

I chose the Caribbean Marine Conservation program because it combined many things that I love. I love science and conservation, because I've grown up around two scientist parents and I love anything to do with water, so there wasn't really a choice to be made. Scuba diving wasn't something I had given any thought to prior to the trip, but now it's certainly something I'm going to use to explore more of the world that most people never see. It also inspired me to take some marine biology or conservation classes in college, if those types of courses are offered, something I hadn't really considered.

What was your favorite part about the Caribbean? 

My favorite parts of doing a trip in the Caribbean were the stars and the water. I loved being able to lay back at night on the deck, sleeping bag mostly zipped, and watch the countless stars traverse the sky. Where I live, you can see more stars than in a city without a doubt, but the night sky above my bedroom can't hold a candle to the one above the Catamaran.

I loved the water for a lot of reasons. The fact that if the sun got too hot, I could jump off the side or the front of the boat into cooler Caribbean waters was mind-blowing. Also, there were a few times where I was grateful beyond words for the Caribbean Sea, and most of those times revolve around the wonders I saw below the waves.

What do you think makes your program unique? 

This program was unique because of the people on it. Unless we do a Broadreach reunion in ten years time, we fifteen will never be in the same place at the same time. We came from very different (and yet quite similar) backgrounds, and it was so much fun talking to the other kids and to the leaders about their lives. We became a family on the boat and the island. I've done other wilderness camps and camps like this before, but none of them can be compared to the sense of closeness I felt at Broadreach.

How did local staff support you throughout your program?

Asta was our teacher, and she became something in between a sister and a mentor over the course of the three weeks. She would make class so much fun that I barely even noticed how we flew through material that may have bored us if we had been in school. If we needed someone to talk to, then she was a friend who'd listen. If we needed to just go crazy and have a ridiculous time, then she'd be there to make sure we were still being safe. I still email with her now, four months after the trip.

Stefan was our dive instructor. He knew, it seemed, almost every creature we encountered on a dive, and if we had questions then he would try his best to answer them. That being said, he also would make sure that we tried to find out for ourselves what something is if we saw it underwater and he didn't; this taught us to use the wildlife books that he had brought on board. We all became very good friends, and I would email him if only I hadn't lost the slip of paper with his email address on it!

What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?

I wish that I could have tried harder to stay connected. On the Catamaran and on Saba, we had our ups and downs, of course, but at the end of the day we would come together if someone needed help. I wish that I had tried harder to stay connected to everyone. Of the fourteen amazing people I met, I speak regularly with one and sporadically with one or two others. If someone else reads this in hopes of going on a Broadreach trip, here is my advice: make sure that when you return to normal life that you keep in touch with the friends you made.

Make every second count, because if you miss something amazing, it might not come again.

Sunset over the Caribbean

A really beautiful sunset I saw one of the first nights on the boat - none of the others after that dusk held a candle to this one.

Describe a day in the life of your program.

A day in the program usually involved waking up early (7:30 a.m. was a sleep in) to make sure we got everything done before the sun became too hot. Two kids would be on meal duty, and so by the time everybody woke up, breakfast would be almost ready. Then we would often begin suiting up for a dive, if we were diving twice that day, and in total the dives would take two or three hours, including getting ready and cleaning all of the gear. Then, we would have class.

Class ran usually between an hour and an hour and a half, depending on how much material we had to cover that day. Around then it was probably about noon or 1:00 p.m. As such, the two kids on meal crew would make lunch. After lunch we would either do another dive or we would be given free time to work on journal entries, catch up on our dive logs, or go swimming. Finally, we would eat dinner, complete with Glums-and-Glows (a Broadreach tradition) and the quote of the day.

What was your favorite activity outside the normal day-to-day schedule of your program? 

My favorite activity outside of the day-to-day was writing. I am an avid writer and especially love writing about things that I've done. Broadreach was so incredible and diving was something so new and amazing that I was never lacking for writing material. I would also often sit on the deck and read or chat with the other kids. Sometimes we would play the most ridiculous swimming and jumping games, too.

What type of accommodation did you have? What did you like best about it?

We lived for the first two weeks on and in a catamaran, then finished the trip on Saba for a week in an EcoLodge. On the boat, there was a girls’ side and a guys’ side of the boat for cabins. However, nobody actually slept in them. We all brought our sleeping bags on the deck and lay them out every which way. Some of us were on top of the cabin, some on the deck, and a couple were usually on the trampoline in the bow of the boat. On Saba, we lived in cabins in an EcoLodge, usually three to a cabin. As with the boat, the girls and guys cabins were strictly separate.

My favorite part of living in either place was the fact that I could look up and see a sky filled with stars. On the boat, all I had to do was lie down. On Saba, I just had to walk to the common area and take a seat.

Now that you're home, how has your program impacted your life?

I have rekindled my passion for science and am seriously considering taking marine biology classes in college and possibly pursuing some research. I also found that I love scuba diving, but also that there is nowhere near me to do it. It also introduced me to amazing people who I don't think I'll ever forget, and opened a new world of exploration to which I intend to never close the door to.