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Diversity in Floura and Fauna, and in People: A Marine Biologist Sees the World

"I didn't realize how big the world was until I started spending time abroad."

Samantha Farquhar, CIEE Study Abroad alumna and former program leader for the CIEE Global Navigator High School Study Abroad program in Bonaire, is off to explore more of the world. In January, Samantha embarked on a new adventure to Nepal to work on an aquaculture project. As a marine biologist and humanitarian, the field of international sustainable development came naturally to her. Based in Rampur, Nepal, Samantha traveled to rural communities to collaborate on implementing new aquaculture technology to empower and nourish women. Largely, this involved researching the socioeconomic impacts of an aquaculture initiative started to empower women in rural communities by teaching them to maintain fishponds to benefit economics and nutrition of local families.

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In her article on “Pink Pangea”, an online community for women who love to travel, Samantha describes how she came to this role in Nepal, fusing science and humanitarian work:

“I have always known I wanted to help people, but I never really knew how I was going to go about it. My strengths were always science-based, but I didn’t want to become a doctor. I liked the idea of teaching, but I didn’t want to be stuck in a bureaucratic school system. By the time my senior year of college rolled around, I was doing some serious soul searching. My double major in International Studies and Marine Biology seemed liked an odd combination to many, including myself, but after working with the nonprofit The Full Belly Project, I began to forge my own future endeavors. This organization innovates and distributes tools to rural communities based on the resources available. This sparked my own interests in sustainable development. I decided that I wanted to use my education to help communities protect, utilize, and sustainably manage their environmental resources to help develop and advance the community as a whole.”

In an interview with Samantha, we learned more about the role that CIEE Study Abroad played in shaping who she is today – an aspiring scientist and humanitarian!

What interested you in the CIEE Study Abroad program in Bonaire?

The ability to become trained as a scientific diver was a huge incentive. I was majoring in marine biology so I knew that the training would be beneficial to my career. That, combined with opportunity to live and learn on a beautiful Caribbean Island made it an ideal choice.

What was it like to live and study in Bonaire?

Bonaire was so inspiring for many reasons. The island community is close-knit and really care about preserving their beautiful home so you learn from professors and locals alike. You and your classmates become this big family and support system. You will spend evenings and meals talking about what cool thing happened on the dive or how you are all going to change the world.

I was also surprised with how diverse it was. On this one small island, you can find coral reefs, deserts, mangrove forests, and caves. Wild donkeys roam free, rare jelly fish are constantly being discovered, and thousands of flamingos migrate there every year. I was even able to pick up a little Papiamentu and Dutch while there in addition to improving my salsa dancing. The only negative thing about Bonaire is that the all the beautiful sunsets, diving, and starry nights will spoil you; your standards for such things in the future will be so high that eventually you will realize nothing compares to Bonaire.

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How did studying abroad open your eyes to the world?

Studying abroad showed me how diverse the world is – in flora and fauna of course, but especially with people. It was building relationships with the people I met abroad, turning strangers to friends, which allowed me to gain perspective I otherwise wouldn't have.  

How did studying abroad contribute to your education?

I didn't realize how big the world was until I started spending time abroad. Studying abroad broke me out of this bubble I didn't even know I had. Once I broke the bubble, I learned how small the world was. I found that there are always more similarities with people than differences. This has ultimately inspired me to apply my education to tackle global international issues.

What motivated you to return to Bonaire as a program leader?

I enjoy helping others and teaching. I also had developed a special place in my heart for Bonaire and wanted others to feel the same. So, the opportunity to return there and guide high schoolers through a study abroad experience of their own seemed meant to be.  

What plans do you have for the future?

Well, in the near future, I'm happy to say will be working as a program leader again this summer! This time in Lisbon, Portugal for the Aquatic Ecosystems and Sustainability program. After that, I hope to attend graduate school in the fall to study environmental management or marine affairs.

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Do you have your own story to share? Email alumni@ciee.org to get started!

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