One Story at a Time: Audra DeLaney (S’18) on Being a Williams-Mystic Student and Intern

Hi, I’m Audra. I am a born-and-raised Ohioan with a passion for handwritten letters and philanthropic initiatives. Currently, I am a rising senior at Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio studying public relations and political science and hope to work in public affairs somewhere on the East Coast. It has been an honor and a privilege to write blog posts about the lives and experiences of numerous Williams-Mystic alumni over the last seven months.

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I am an alumna of the spring 2018 Williams-Mystic class. In March 2017, I mentioned to an economics professor about how I had space in my junior year to do a study away/study aboard program and I wasn’t sure how I wanted to fill that time. She told me about Williams-Mystic and the rest is history.

Once I was accepted, I had almost a year to wait until it was my turn to be a student in the program. I read every blog, looked at every Facebook post, and watched every youtube video I could find to learn more about Williams-Mystic. I grew up going to Lake Erie every summer, so I knew a little bit about boats, enjoyed science, and was intrigued by policy pertaining to the ocean. I thought I would do okay.

I thought my Williams-Mystic experience would be purely academic. I would learn some pretty amazing facts in some pretty amazing places and head back to Ohio feeling accomplished.

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Williams-Mystic was a challenge-filled, transformative, and emotional semester for me. As far as academics are concerned, I was pushed to my limits and completed work I am very proud of, but there is more to this program than hours spent working on projects and papers.

Going forward, I will remember my oceanography professor telling me it was okay to get seasick on the ship. I will remember standing over the leeward rail and my ecology professor telling me to be kinder to myself when I was, in fact, seasick and frustrated that I couldn’t help my shipmates complete our tasks. I will remember walking to the second floor of Labaree House to talk to my policy professor for the first time and being too excited about the fact that her door was covered with postcards. I will remember my literature professor’s passion for Herman Melville’s masterpiece, Moby-Dick. I will remember walking with my history professor through the Redwood Forest talking about the state of our country and how we could make it better. I will remember all the times my shipmates made me laugh, gave me a hug, or overcame a challenge with flying colors. I will remember jumping in the Pacific Ocean in March, singing at the top of my lungs in a car full of people I care so much about, learning from individuals facing unimaginable challenges, and seeing how a group of human beings can truly just be people, together.

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Williams-Mystic was 17-weeks of being vulnerable and intentional. You only have so much time to get everything done, so you have to be smart about how you spend your time. I spent my time calling stakeholders about a controversial lock and dam project in Illinois, researching women, the sea, and the Cult of True Womanhood in the Victorian Era, kayaking for a science project centered around runoff in the Mystic River Estuary, and examining the different ways an author’s experiences affected how that person wrote about oceans and coasts. I also spent my time making as many memories as possible with my shipmates and working as a social media intern.

Interning for Williams-Mystic during the semester and this summer has deepened my appreciation for the program. I have been able to work on projects that matter to me and hopefully will help the program continue to positively affect the lives of undergraduate students. As well, I cannot begin to describe how awesome it has been to learn the stories of so many dynamic, driven, passionate, and kind fellow alumni. Every single person I have interviewed has given me a new perspective on how Williams-Mystic can change a student’s life and/or perspective, which has been crucial in explaining the program to prospective students.

In closing, I would like to thank all of the alumni, faculty, and staff who have supported me, listened to me, challenged me, and trusted me since January. I would also like to thank each and every one of my shipmates. I am so thankful for all the times we spent eating White Cheddar Cheetos and talking about topics that matter to each of us. I will always be thankful for the semester I took a break from studying the media to study the oceans and coasts of the United States.

Here is my advice to prospective students: jump in with both feet. Like everything else in life, you will get out of Williams-Mystic what you put into it. Hug your shipmates, go talk to your faculty members, and take time to pause and reflect on your walk (more like a timed sprint) through the program.