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.
A Vassar College pre-med student with a passion for photography finds out about an ocean and coastal studies program and chooses to take a leap and participate…and then change her course of study to focus on international studies.
For Fall 2017 alumna Haley Kardek, the story of how she found Wiliams-Mystic is poetic.
“For most of my life, I had spent my summers sailing or coaching sailing in New Jersey. However, the summer of 2017 was the first summer I had been working an apprenticeship up in New York. At the beginning of August, I finally had the opportunity to sail a weekend,” Haley said. “My first day on the water felt so good and, when I got home that evening, I had an email waiting for me from my advisor encouraging me to look into a last-minute opening at Williams-Mystic for that fall. I try to live my life being open and receiving to every door that opens and the moment was too perfect to turn down the opportunity to apply.”
Haley spent some of her time while she was in the program photographing the world and people around her. A few of her photos are featured on our website as well as on our social media platforms.
“Photography and anything outdoors is my “escapes.” I feel most at peace with myself when I am photographing the world and people around me,” Haley said. “Some people say to be human is to be a storyteller – for me, I feel most human capturing and sharing stories through my photography.”
Williams-Mystic gave Haley the opportunity to personally experience the causes, symptoms, and effects of large maritime issues, such as Climate Change, marine bioinvasions, social justice inequalities, fisheries, and more.
“It is one thing to learn in a classroom or read about an issue; it is a completely different opportunity to physically see a roadway that has become covered by water, to listen to a fisherman talk about competition in the scallop industry, to estimate the population size of new fiddler crab communities or look for microplastics in shellfish,” Haley said. “At Williams-Mystic your experiences from traveling to maritime communities and conducting your independent research projects become the cornerstone of learning about maritime issues. This is what I wanted to experience with the program and I was not at all disappointed.”
Haley’s participation in Williams-Mystic changed her path in academia and career trajectory.
“Williams-Mystic very drastically changed my life, path-wise. Up until that semester, I had set my eyes on pursuing medical school; however, a variety of different trains of thought and feelings came together during my semester at Williams-Mystic and I decided I wanted to address the large, systemic issues that contribute to many health issues such as political agency and voice and social inequalities as well as connect more with my passion and love for the environment,” Haley said.
The offshore field seminar Haley’s class embarked on left from Erie, Pennsylvania on Lake Erie. For Haley, this was her favorite field seminar experience.
“The offshore field seminar in Lake Erie was my favorite as it revealed both the hardship and beauty of sailing a tall ship away from the sight of land. Throughout the semester, especially when reading Moby-Dick, I would re-live my time on the U.S. Brig Niagara and be able to relate to the general experiences of living on a ship at sea: struggling to find sea legs, getting an “all hands on deck” call, being so physically and mentally tired you could literally sleep standing up, watching the sun rise and set on a horizon not lined with land,” Haley said.
Williams-Mystic taught Haley the complexity of issues and that you cannot get frustrated when you are trying to solve problems.
“Solving these issues requires working through the many values and differences of experience embedded in one issue. It requires collaboration and connecting scientists with politicians and artists with industry workers. Most important of all, addressing these issues requires active and genuine connection with the people affected by and affecting the aspects of larger issues – a skill very much encouraged and taught during my semester at Williams-Mystic.”