A week in Paradise


Dr. Kathleen Nolan

The students visited the U.S. Virgin Islands National Park Visitor Center on the last day of the trip, where they got information about the National Park from a park ranger.

Tess Riecke, Staff Writer

What better way to spend break than in the U.S. Virgin Islands? For just a week, myself and another student, Jayme Krejci, were able to escape the Nebraska cold and go to paradise.

Contrary to what most think, we didn’t spend the time sunbathing and indulging in endless pina coladas. We did spend most of our time either hiking or snorkeling and learning about marine ecology and different ecosystems on Saint John.

Because we are involved with the Honors Program at Wayne State College, we were able to go on the trip through Partners in the Parks. PITP takes honors students from various colleges all over the country to different national parks in an effort to broaden students’ perspectives of the landscapes.

We stayed inside the national park at the Virgin Islands Environmental Resource Station. VIERS works with the national park and the University of the Virgin Islands and is an eco-camp. Started in 1966, VIERS provides a camp for people interested in learning more about the biology and as a camp for researchers from different organizations.

I had never been to a tropical island before and hadn’t seen many of the animals and plant life outside of the Henry Doorly Zoo. The first time I saw a green sea turtle in the wild, I got so excited and followed it around Little Lameshur Bay.

Jayme had never seen the ocean before so it was definitely a life-changing experience for her.

What made this trip so spectacular was the group. Under most circumstances, you throw 17 strangers together in close quarters (hello, six people sharing a cabin) and there is bound to be some drama. With our group, we hit it off within a couple of hours. We comprised students and teachers from Brooklyn, NY, Washington, D.C., Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Everyone’s personalities fed off one another, and the combined sense of humors created a laidback atmosphere that made the trip as enjoyable as it was.

On one of the days, we hopped on Sadie Sea, a boat touring company, to go snorkeling in more open waters. At the end of the day, we were allowed to jump off the top of the boat. Everyone in the group including the teachers made the leap.

Every trip has some moments that stick out more than others. For Jayme, her sundress was stolen by a mongoose. One of the areas we went snorkeling required us to tie up our lunches, otherwise mongooses would steal them. Jayme wasn’t warned that they may steal her sundress if it was hanging on a low tree.

For me, it was getting stung by a sea urchin. We were snorkeling in some mangroves, which is very shallow, and visibility can be limited when the sediment gets kicked up. I felt a sharp pain, then a stinging sensation. When the spine breaks off, it will temporarily dye your skin purple. It stopped hurting after a few hours but I can still see where I got stung.

Transitioning back to school was tough. We both realized that within a couple of days, we were missing the group, the weather and the activities.

Honors students are encouraged to look into PITP at any of the locations they are holding in the summer. For any questions, contact Dr. Deb Whitt.