For Straw, however, the experience completely changed her. She grew up
in Colorado and always thought that compared to white water rafting, skiing,
backpacking, repelling, fishing, hang gliding, mountain biking and camping,
the beach sounded boring.
“I have never understood why anyone would want to spend their money on a
trip to the beach when there are many other exciting places to be,”
Well traveled, Straw had already visited 41 states and seven countries,
so to her San Salvador merely provided an enriching opportunity to get some
extra biology credits and work toward her scuba certification prior to a
planned trip to the Caribbean upon her return. Her view quickly changed,
though, after she descended into the deep blue sea for the first time.
“As I floated down the wall, which drops off for thousands of feet into
la-la-land, I saw thousands of colors and countless fish,” Straw explained.
“I have seen many things around the world, including the Swiss Alps, the
Canadian Rocky Mountains, the Grand Canyon, the Eiffel Tower, the Palace
of Versailles, downtown Brussels and the Empress in Victoria, British
Columbia, just to name a few. There is no question in my mind that the
overlook from the wall on my first scuba dive was more amazing then anything
I have ever seen. It was incredible how small I felt looking up through
100 feet of seawater and swimming along the largest change in elevation
that I had ever experienced. The view took my breath away.”
Straw also enjoyed her research because, as she said, “I found my subject
interesting for the first time.” Now Straw, the same person who used to
wear T-shirts that read “Life’s a Mountain, Forget the Beach,” is
considering switching her focus.
“San Salvador was the best learning experience I have ever had. I have
been committed to medical school for years, but my experiences on San
Salvador have drawn in the possibility of marine biology. I didn’t think
anything would ever change my mind about the beach or about medical school.
I wrestled for months with the idea of looking into marine biology and
putting my M.D. on hold. I felt pulled toward every aspect of marine
science like a magnet.
“I think about my trip to San Salvador every day and am constantly
dreaming about new things to learn and study. My head may be for medicine,
but my heart belongs with the ocean. I am now trying to find ways to
combine both aspirations into one career, but for now I am going to
learn as much I can through graduate schools and internships.”
An assisting diver for Wittenberg’s scuba class, Straw is spending her
spring semester studying in the Bermuda/Duke Marine Lab program where she
hopes to learn more about possible careers in marine biology.
“Choosing to sign up for the Wittenberg-Bahamas summer program was by
far one of the best decisions I have ever made,” she said. “Thank you,
Wittenberg, for providing this unbelievable opportunity. I will remember
and cherish those memories for the rest of my life.”