This post was written by S’18 student and social media intern Audra DeLaney. She is a public relations major and political science minor from Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio. Audra enjoys visiting the ocean, going on adventures, and telling the unique stories of the people and places around her. If you have any questions about our program, you can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our program prides itself on providing undergraduate students a semester of original research opportunities, extensive travel, and timely snack breaks. For University of Georgia Senior Katie Maddox, getting glimpses of the program via social media made her think that Williams-Mystic was the place for her to spend her last undergraduate semester.
“I decided to do Williams-Mystic because I don’t know what I want to do until I go to grad school,” Katie said. “I need to bridge that gap and it is a way for me to figure out what I want to do for the next few years.”
At the University of Georgia, Katie was an ecology student. Her class sizes were small and she experienced research and fieldwork first hand. What she had never experienced until coming to Williams-Mystic was conducting science experiments aboard a tall ship. While aboard the SSV Corwith Cramer circumnavigating Puerto Rico, Katie experienced all sailing has to offer.
“I was a part of A Watch and one night we had watch from 2300 (11 p.m.) to 0300 (3 a.m.) and we were motor sailing so it was pretty rough seas,” Katie said. “About half of our watch was clipped into the leeward rail because we were all seasick.”
Katie said that was the time aboard the ship where she asked herself why she had chosen to do the program, but that the seasickness subsided and there were many positive moments out at sea.
“My journal reflects some of the negative moments but all of my best memories are bonding with everyone,” Katie said. “The watches were made so well and now all of us are best buds. The class came back a big family.”
Being at sea was an experience Katie will never forget.
“It gives you a sense of how small you are in the world and that is very humbling,” Katie said. “Now, being back in class, we can relate to all we are learning and reading about in literature and history.”
Katie’s motto in life is that you have to try everything at least once. Even though she didn’t let it show, she worried about surrendering contact with the outside world and being a novice crew member on a ship for ten days. Now, worries and seasickness aside, she believes that sailing aboard the SSV Corwith Cramer is the best experience she has had in her college career thus far.
Aside from sailing in Puerto Rico, the S’18 class got another unique experience: visiting Old San Juan and El Morro, the fort at the entrance to San Juan Harbor.
The class as a whole was able to see the rebuilding process going on in Puerto Rico since hurricanes devastated the area in fall 2017.
“I had been to the same area last March prior to the hurricanes,” Katie said. “I got to see how things in the area had changed. It was depressing to see but it was good to see that the city is recovering.”
Prior to heading to Puerto Rico, Literature Professor Mary K. Bercaw Edwards told the class to imagine what it was like to get off the ship in a place they had never been and go into town with your lump sum of money like sailors did long ago. Katie said she thought about that while she was in San Juan and it was an interesting perspective to view the excursion from.
“I was glad we started at El Morro because as you work your way toward the bottom of old San Juan it gets more and more touristy,” Katie said. “It was cool to see that dynamic.”
When the SSV Corwith Cramer was coming back into San Juan Harbor, Katie said she felt like a real sailor because seeing the fort first is what the sailors would have seen back in the day.
For Katie, being back at Mystic Seaport is just as exciting as being out at sea. In addition to academic classes, each student takes a maritime skills class taught by those who work at the Seaport.
“My skill is canvas working,” Katie said. “I am very excited about it because we start with a literal and proverbial blank canvas.”
Katie’s will also hold a job while she is in the program. She is a lab assistant to Lab Manager Laurie Warren.
“I will help maintain the aquarium and take inventory in the lab,” Katie said. “This job is going to be a way to make a little money on the side and have fun.”
Williams-Mystic is more than just a maritime studies program. It is a place for people from all walks of life, and college majors, to engage in the study of ocean and beyond from many different angles. If you would like to learn more about the Williams-Mystic Maritime Studies Program, please visit mystic.williams.edu.