As I am heading back to Durham on my last flight from the Seychelles, I have mixed feeling regarding the end of my experience. While I am happy to head back home, I am sadder to have left Curieuse. I’m excited to be able to talk on the phone and contact friends and family regularly, sleep without a mosquito net, use a washer and dryer, and of course, use a flushing toilet. However, these things seem small compared to what I am leaving behind. I will miss hiking each day, interacting with giant tortoises, cleaning beautiful and nearly untouched beaches, surveying the endemic Coco de Mers, and having access to a beach at all times of day. More importantly, I will miss working with staff that are so passionate and excited about their work every day and describe work on Curieuse as their dream jobs. From the staff, volunteers, and wildlife, I have many new experiences and memories to bring home and share.
Through my intern project working with seagrass and sea urchin densities, I was able to build my leadership and communication skills leading a small team of volunteers to assist in my data collect. Beyond these skills and several more, I learned even more about myself through this experience. I saw how little I needed to live and be happy.
Instead of focusing on what I will miss, I have reflected on what I have learned the past two months, some rather small but others much larger. I adapted to a new lifestyle so quickly, becoming comfortable in an environment that may seem uncomfortable at first or to others. I have learned to husk coconuts, make bread, tie a bow knot on the boat, distinguish different species of mangrove trees based on leaf, fruit, and root shapes, and identify genders of the tortoises, land crabs, lemon sharks, and Coco de Mer trees. I have learned the skills involved in each survey (tortoises, lemon sharks, mangroves, Coco de Mer, beach profiling, turtle nesting). Through my intern project working with seagrass and sea urchin densities, I was able to build my leadership and communication skills leading a small team of volunteers to assist in my data collect. Beyond these skills and several more, I learned even more about myself through this experience. I saw how little I needed to live and be happy. Every day I looked forward to each survey and going hiking, not knowing what we may find and learn that day. At the end of each day I found myself anxious and excited to see the schedule for the next day to see what I was assigned. Through my free time of exploring the island and visiting the beaches, I realized how much I love the outdoors and the water and how easily I become content and mindful in these environments. I also learned the importance of teamwork and communication, living so minimally in a place that required constant tasks and chores to keep the base running smoothly.
I decided to center my Duke Engage experience on island and wildlife conservation to explore a different side of me, the young dream as a child to work with animals. I looked at it as an opportunity to explore a new field as I continue the premed path. I did not expect myself to come back from this trip and question some aspects of my future. While I plan to continue the pre-med track, I may consider wildlife conservation as a gap year, or even a couple gap years, experience.