Maritime Studies Brings a Local Student to Williams-Mystic

“At the end of those seventeen weeks, I saw all my classmates as my family. I had never become as close to another group of people the same way I had with them. The community we created must be my favorite part of the experience.”

This post was written by S’18 alumna Audra DeLaney. Audra enjoys visiting the ocean, going on adventures, and telling the unique stories of the people and places around her. 

What happens when your academic advisor has a crazy idea for what you should do your second semester of your freshman year? You take their advice.

University of Connecticut, Avery Point sophomore Sarah Stratton Patulak walked into Dr. Mary K. Bercaw Edwards’ office in the fall of 2016 unsure of what classes she wanted to take in the spring.

“When Mary K. told me about Williams-Mystic I was hooked instantly,” Sarah said. “She kept trying to sell it to me and convince me to apply, and I remember thinking ‘Where do I sign?’”

As a maritime studies and geography double major, Sarah considers herself lucky to have stumbled across the program.

“It gave me a taste of the maritime world, it showed me the diverse options that laid ahead of me in my education,” Sarah said. “To not only see but experience all sides of the very interdisciplinary field was incredibly eye-opening. It also helped solidify that this major was the right track for me to be taking.”

Williams-Mystic brought out a side of herself Sarah had never seen before.

“I saw this both academically but also in a personal sense. I recently re-visited some of the projects and papers from the program and was amazed at the quality of the work I did,” Sarah said. “I was also surprised by how many times I was put outside of my comfort zone, and how well I adapted to those circumstances. The greatest example of this took place during the offshore voyage; I never imagined myself setting sails in the middle of the night during a squall.”

For Sarah, the list of memories from her time in the program is endless.

“Some of my favorite memories come from Albion House. Any memory from sitting in our kitchen is one of my favorites,” Sarah said. “I remember one night we were all totally consumed with some assignment and were all stressed out in our respective work spots. We decided that at 2300 we would all take a break and convene in the kitchen for a 30-minute ice cream break. It ended up being almost an hour and a half and a whole tub of ice cream between the four of us. We just got caught up in conversation and telling funny stories, and it was much-needed comedic relief. It is probably one of my happiest memories.”

Traveling to the Pacific Northwest was Sarah’s favorite field seminar.

“We traveled from Seattle down the coast into Oregon and reflecting on it, it is astonishing to think that it all happened over the span of only eight days. I didn’t think it was possible to learn so much about so many different things in such a short amount of time,” Sarah said. “This field seminar also had the most Van Life time, as well as time together as a whole group. It was really in those hours spent in the back of the vans driving down the Pacific coast that I felt I bonded with my shipmates the most.”

To Sarah, Williams-Mystic is the best decision she has made for herself both academically and personally.

“I lived outside of my comfort zone throughout the semester and I feel like I could do anything because of it. It really taught me that you should say yes to every opportunity you are given because you never know what will become of it. I tell people all the time, Don’t lock doors you haven’t even tried opening yet,” Sarah said. “It also changed the way I look at the ocean. After all my studies I have a deeper understanding and appreciation for the ocean. I could fully live in and with it and explore my passion which I think it’s why I found it so beneficial.”

Sarah loved the friendships she forged while in the program.

“My favorite part had to be the friendships I created with my shipmates. At the end of those seventeen weeks, I saw them all as my family,” Sarah said. “I had never become as close to another group of people the same way I had with them. The community we created must be my favorite part of the experience.”

As far as Sarah’s future is concerned, she hopes to work in ocean stewardship and education and would like to get her captain’s license someday.

“I love what I do, and I want to share it with the rest of the world. As a student studying the environment and the ocean, it is constantly on my radar and I am constantly interacting with people who understand its importance,” Sarah said. “But there is an entire world of people who don’t know a lot about the ocean, or the issues facing it. I see an untapped potential for education and I would like to work in spreading that awareness and knowledge.”

Author: Williams-Mystic

An interdisciplinary ocean and coastal studies program integrating marine science, maritime history, environmental policy, and literature of the sea. All majors welcome and 100% of financial need met!

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