At the end of the month, Stonehill’s Oscar Tsao ’17 will embark on a sailing adventure to Spain and Portugal through the highly competitive Sea Education Association (SEA) Semester Study Abroad Program. One of 14 students selected for SEA’s “Global Ocean” voyage, Tsao will be investigating the human impacts on the ocean throughout his six week’s at sea on the SSV Corwith Cramer, a state-of-the-art 134 brigantine.
As an international business major, the decision to take part in a program focused on environmental issues may seem unorthodox but to Tsao, that was exactly the point.
“I was most excited by the very idea of doing something entirely different and learning a completely new set of skills,” explains Tsao, who’s always been interested in sustainable practices and is looking forward to delving deeper into environmental concerns like changes in landscapes and seascapes.
He notes, Business Professor Rob Carver has helped give him the courage to make such bold decisions.
“He has been nothing but encouraging and supportive. Although this seems to be a common trend among all Stonehill professors, Professor Carver has pushed me when I needed it the most while still being very understanding and patient. His passion for teaching and drive to help his students succeed is an admirable quality and I’m proud to say he’s my biggest mentor,” notes Tsao.
To prepare for their journey at sea, Tsao and his classmates are completing a five-week preparatory course at SEA Semester’s campus in the oceanographic research community of Woods Hole. The students will travel to Barcelona, Spain at the end of month when they will set sail.
Sailing as a full working crew on the oceanographic research vessel, the class will navigate to the island of Mallorca, then head through the Straits of Gibraltar into the eastern reaches of the Atlantic Ocean, joining thousands of ships that still rely on the well-traveled path to the New World. From there, they will visit the ancient city of Cadiz and conclude with port stops in two Atlantic island groups: Madeira, a Portuguese region where almost two-thirds of the area is protected habitat, and the Canary Islands, Spain’s most far-flung territory.
Along the way, they will use the ten metrics of the Ocean Health Index, among other tools, to assess changing in landscapes and seascapes, potentially informing future decisions about how best to protect these environments.
For Tsao, everything will be a new experience as it will be his first time in Europe and his first sailing adventure. “I earned the sailing merit badge back when I was a boy scout but I’d hardly count that,” he jokes.
Adjusting to life as a sailor will be the most challenging aspect of the trip says Tsao. “History seems to have romanticized such a lifestyle but the reality of it is not always as relaxing as one might think,” he says.
From upwards of eight hour watch shifts to classes on board and lab experiments on top of the physical work required to sail a ship, Tsao knows a “good night’s sleep” may be a three-hour nap on board the ship.
Still, Tsao says he is ready to be at the mercy of nature during the six weeks. “I’m excited to tuning my eyes and ears to the natural world around me. Never before has my dependence on and the connection to the natural world been as manifested as it will be during my time at sea,” says Tsao.
While he is still debating his career path, Tsao admits the more he learns about current global impacts on the environment, the more drawn he is to the thought of working for a company that deals with sustainable, clean, energy technologies.