by Evan McAlice, Assistant Director of Admissions & Communications
Greetings, once again, from the SSV Corwith Cramer, where students are currently decorating science project posters and frantically preparing for the pin rail chase. Just earlier today, the Cramer anchored in St. John, and our students spent the morning snorkeling in Waterlemon Cay and learning about the Trans-Atlantic slave trade at the Annaberg Sugar Mill.
While we enjoy the beautiful weather and picturesque scenery, it’s important to reflect on the trials, tribulations, and sacrifices many of our students endured to even reach this point. As per Williams-Mystic tradition, so it seems, it wouldn’t be the beginning of the semester if thorough plans weren’t immediately thrown out the window due to unforeseen circumstances.
The first hurdle our students had to face was a familiar one: the Omicron variant. With students arriving to Mystic at the height of the Omicron surge, and then leaving for the offshore trip just a week later, Williams-Mystic had to quickly devise a game plan to keep everyone safe and healthy.
That plan: students would take a Covid test immediately upon arrival in Mystic, and once they tested negative, they could move into their respective houses. From there, they would quarantine in their houses for the entire week leading up to offshore. Classes were held on Zoom or outside in the cold January weather. Students drove themselves crazy solving complex jigsaw puzzles. They watched movies like Pirates of the Caribbean, envisioning themselves as those pirates adventuring across the seven seas.
Miraculously, not only did every student test negative upon arrival, but they remained negative through every PCR and rapid test taken throughout the rest of the week. It was a tremendous triumph for the program – a great sign of things to come, and a testament to S22’s patience and willpower.
But, as one head of the Hydra falls, a second head emerges in its wake. Weather reports warned that a massive snow storm was due to hit New England on Saturday, January 29, the day before our flight from Boston. When our flight was cancelled that Thursday, Williams-Mystic sprang into action. All offshore participants were required to take yet another rapid test to submit for travel clearance, and the Williams-Mystic team worked swiftly to book new flights. As Mystic was plunged underneath two feet of fluffy snow, students spent their snow day shoveling walkways and having snowball fights. They may have lost a day of travel, but spirits remained high.
All rapid tests returned negative, we were cleared to travel, and new flight arrangements were made. No matter how many times outside forces tried to strike us down, we only came back stronger.
On Monday, January 31, students, faculty, and staff left Mystic for Boston, where they would then hop on a 4-hour flight to Miami, followed by a short connecting flight from Miami to St. Croix. The layover in Miami was incredibly short, so the Williams-Mystic crew blazed through the Miami airport at Mach speed, weaving through crowded hallways and terminals. We reached our terminal with a few minutes to spare, taking a sigh of relief – nothing could stop us now.
We board the plane. Many are texting friends and loved ones for the last time before takeoff. Students are bracing themselves for the adventure of a lifetime. We wait. We wait some more. We keep waiting. After nearly an hour of waiting idly on the runway, the pilot’s voice blares over the intercom: “Good evening, folks. Due to a mechanical issue, we are going to have to relocate you to a new plane in a new terminal. We apologize for the inconvenience.”
We frantically gather our belongings, make our way off the plane, and rush to our new terminal… all the way on the other side of the airport. Through elevators, and escalators, and skytrains (oh my), we arrive at our new terminal. We breathe a sigh of relief that we have successfully jumped yet another hurdle, only to look at the screen and realize: our new flight time is 8:00 a.m. tomorrow morning.
After regrouping and reorganizing plans, we decide to make our way back to the previous terminal to collect our boarding passes for tomorrow’s flight. Students use this time waiting in the terminal to bond through enlightening conversations, ice cream bars from the nearby snack bar, and an intensely competitive game of Mafia.
Meanwhile, the unbelievably hardworking team back in Mystic organized hotel arrangements for our extended stay in Miami. Thanks to their incredible effort, all 21 travelers had a comfy bed to rest in, another hot shower to enjoy before those would become scarce, and once last game of Wordle. As we rode the taxi from the airport to the hotel, the sweet sounds of Seal’s “Kiss From a Rose” and Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car” bounced off the walls. Despite the commotion and chaos we all endured, nothing was going to break our spirit.
We gather the next morning in the lobby at 5:15, fighting through collective grogginess, and we board yet another taxi back to the airport. Thankfully, the only hurdle we had to face on this leg of the journey was a particularly long line for subpar bagels. We left Miami at 8:00 a.m., landed in St. Croix a few hours later, and we have been living the high life on the Cramer ever since.
To everyone who fought through the destruction of plans made months in advance to make sure we got here, we cannot thank you enough. So much gratitude is also owed to our wonderful class of students, whose eternal optimism and levity during times of uncertainty made this entire journey worth it. The perilous week-long journey to reach the Cramer is merely a small sample of just how bright, enthusiastic, and adaptable our students are, and we can’t wait to see how these qualities continue to shine once we return to shore.