What have I been up to at Williams-Mystic?
We just finished Week 16 (yikes) of 17. We really can’t figure out where all the time went. Our biggest academic assignments we have been working on our science research papers, history research papers, and policy papers. I guess I haven’t talked that much about academics here but since that’s all I’ve been doing for the past two weeks, I might as well talk about what I’ve been working on now!
For science, I have been working with a science partner, doing a research project measuring the water velocity at various points around the Seaport. We are using this data to determine if erosion is happening at the Seaport. We have mainly found that there isn’t really erosion happening, but through some qualitative interviews we’ve done with Seaport employees, we learned that storm surge and flooding is a more pertinent issue. We will present our research to our classmates and professors, and get to learn about what everyone else has been researching, as well!
For my 15-page history research project, I looked at various black sailors during the 18th and 19th centuries. Even when slavery was legal, there were many black sailors who were either sold to work on ships, or escaped and then joined crews. The maritime environment tends to create a culture of equality (or, near equality), so working on a ship could mean much better treatment for black men.
For my policy paper (which was 30 pages, ten more than it probably should have been), I looked at all of the chemical pollution that occurred around Houston, Texas due to Hurricane Harvey in fall 2017. This storm was such a devastating disaster but left the mainstream media pretty quickly, and it was fascinating to do research on the effects of the storm. For this paper, we had to interview stakeholders, which mean I talked to a variety of people, including former EPA employees, environmental activists, and a really cool Harris County attorney. Although talking on the phone does make me a bit nervous, I really enjoyed talking to people and listening to what they had to say about my issue. For the paper, we also had to research the pertinent rules and law for our issue, as well as providing a policy recommendation. It was by far the most intense research project I’ve ever had to do, and definitely the most rewarding.
A few recent highlights –
Surfing! – Our history professor/surfer extraordinaire took us surfing in Narraganset, RI last weekend! It was so COLD, but we were completely suited up in neoprene. It was hard to try and catch waves while wearing what felt like a water-filled bag on your body, but it was fun and at least we were warm! It was such a cool opportunity.
Donut cake!!? – Our classmate’s mom did something incredible and delivered a donut cake, which was a donut shaped like a sailboat! It was an incredibly kind gesture as well as a great study/sugar break.
It is so CRAZY to think we’ve been here almost 17 weeks! We have done so much in this program, so many things I would had never thought I would be able to do – including, but not limited to, sailing on a tall ship, seeing WHALES, going on a swamp tour in Louisiana, writing a ten page paper on Moby-Dick, sailing and capsizing in the Mystic River, and befriending an amazing group of people from all over the country.
This program is a TON of work. But in 20 years, I’m not going to remember the countless nights (and days) I spent in the lab or at the dining room table, working on a 15 or 30 page research project. I will, however, remember the three amazing field seminars, playing in the snow during our March snow day, surfing with our history professor, and getting soup at Mystic Soup Co. Also, I definitely won’t forget many late-night Carr House tire swings.
Despite feeling stressed and crazy a few times, I mostly feel so incredibly grateful that I had the opportunity to experience all of the amazing and wonderful things that came out of this semester, and was able to share it with my shipmates.