“Are you coming home for this spring break?” My parents ask. “Not this year, sorry mom and dad.” I respond. As someone who lives 500 miles from home, distance is usually the reason why I might not return home for breaks or long weekends. It’s an unavoidable day spent doing nothing but driving, and tends to get old quickly. But this year, I had the chance to go farther… 1000 miles further.
Nobody ever expects a small, rural, inland college to have a SCUBA club. Most people expect it to be a novelty, a space for misplaced sea-folk to commiserate about the trials of being landlocked. But at Juniata, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Along with events that introduce people to the joys of diving and yearly dive trips over spring break, SCUBA club also certifies divers with classes and pool dives. With more than 10 divers certified this year, SCUBA club had to go big.
Our travels took us to midland Florida, where we dove and explored for a week. Most of our dives were in limestone caves and caverns which allow for beautiful, if somewhat harrowing diving. The dives are perfectly safe so long as you stay out of the more dangerous cave systems which are easy to get lost in; fortunately, all of these are well-marked and mapped. While bad weather forced us to cancel our ocean reef dives, we spent that time cavorting with manatees and paddling the beautiful Ichetucknee River in northern Florida before the long drive back.
The opportunities you’ll find at a niche place like Juniata are surprising, from research presentations in Oklahoma (where I’ll be headed the week after next) to diving in Florida. The mark of a true Juniatian, however, is how they face these opportunities. After a week with a dozen of my peers camping in hammocks, I’m happy to say that all of them deal cheerfully with the dreams that come with following one’s dreams—like in this case, the endless mosquitos and cold weather for camping.
–Written by Zach Hesse ‘18