The Collegian
Sunday, February 25, 2024

International Reflection: From being on a remote island to getting two scuba diving certifications, UR students study abroad in Turks & Caicos

<p>Taken December 7, 2022 at approximately 65 feet below the surface off the coast of South Caicos, TCI. Photo courtesy of Caitlin Fay.&nbsp;</p>

Taken December 7, 2022 at approximately 65 feet below the surface off the coast of South Caicos, TCI. Photo courtesy of Caitlin Fay. 

Despite Spain, Denmark and Italy being the top UR study abroad destinations, senior Caitlin Fay decided to study abroad in an unconventional destination – Turks and Caicos – and described it as “unforgettable.”

Fay, who is an environmental studies major, said the program provided the perfect opportunity for in-class and experiential learning. 

“This program gave me the chance to give back to the environment and live with the elements of nature, away from the world,” Fay said. 

Fay took four classes as part of the program: natural resource management, tropical marine ecology, socioeconomics and environmental policy and directed research.

She said the directed research class was a lot like a group project that took place during the last six weeks of the program. Fay’s research was based on marine cleaning stations and fish behavior at those stations.

“That’s probably my favorite,” Fay said, “since we were out in the ocean every day of the week doing research, and at the end, we had a paper that we could publish. It was really cool to see how research work can also be this practical, educational and fun.”

Fay said the academics were not the only unconventional thing about the program.

Fay said that the most interesting aspect of her time abroad was the living conditions that all the students had to adjust to, which included not having air-conditioning or Wi-Fi during the duration of her study abroad semester.

“We were working in 100 degrees without any air conditioning. It was definitely very different from the comfort of home in the U.S.,” Fay said. “We also just had Wi-Fi in the classroom so we would have to do all our work within the classroom.”

In September 2022, hurricane Fiona, a violent Category 4 Atlantic Hurricane, hit South Caicos, where Fay was living. The hurricane also hit Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Grand Turk, according to the National Hurricane Center.

“We did not have running water and electricity when Hurricane Fiona hit,” Fay said. “It was a scary experience but I was grateful for the community there and how we all were there to help each other out.” 

Fay said one of the most rewarding parts of her time abroad was the tight-knit community.

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“There were only 30 students in the school so we, all, as a whole, became very close,” Fay said. “We had activities ranging from simply hanging out in the beautiful spots to bonfires, and at the end of the semester we all painted a mural which was the perfect end to our journey and friendship!” 

One of Fay’s study abroad highlights was getting two scuba diving certifications – both the beginner and the advanced ones. 

“I came into the semester having never scuba dived before, but then I was able to get the opportunity to receive two certifications. It was definitely one of the best parts of my experience,” Fay said. 

Now that Fay is back at UR, she reflects on how different her study abroad journey has been and how just being in the US is a big change- from seeing 30 people consistently for months to being in crowded grocery stores or airports, she said.

“I miss South Caicos and my study abroad program,” Fay said. “It was a great experience for me not only for my education but also personally because of growth and how I was able to learn new cultures. I would go back in a heartbeat.”

Contact international editor Ahona Anjum at

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