Study Abroad Set the Stage

By Special to UM News

Study Abroad Set the Stage

By Special to UM News
UM alumnus Jonathan Dorsey says study abroad fine-tuned his global perspective.

Editor’s note: UM Office of Study Abroad offers programs throughout the world, providing UM students the opportunity to live, learn, and explore in dozens of countries. This is one student’s story about how study abroad impacted his life.

When I wake up everyday I have to pinch myself to realize that I am not dreaming and that I am actually living in the Maldives - a tiny island chain in the middle of the Indian Ocean.

I am currently employed here as the staff marine biologist for TGI Maldives at the Constance Resort Halaveli, but I occasionally help out as a scuba instructor when needed. My main objective is to create sustainable ecotourism programs for the resort that will not only educate, but also get the guests more involved with the incredible coral reefs right off the sandy beaches.

I honestly believe I wouldn’t be here today if I hadn’t taken advantage of the Study Abroad program at the University of Miami. I graduated from UM in Spring 2015 with a degree in Marine Science, but it was my study abroad experience that set the stage for my future.

Growing up, my family was always traveling. When I was young, my parents made it a goal see all 50 states before my twin brother and I left for college and we are proud to say we accomplished that goal. When it came time to go to college, I was back and forth on the prospect of studying abroad. On one hand I loved my time in Miami and didn't want leave for a whole semester, but on the other I wanted to explore and embark on a new adventure. With the help of the study abroad office, I came to my senses and decided that I would be studying abroad at James Cook University in Townsville, Australia during the spring semester of my junior year. 

JCU is internationally renowned for its remarkable marine science program, and this was an amazing opportunity to study and conduct research in a completely different ocean and region of the world.

In addition to the academic side, I wanted to explore Australia. Upon my arrival, I had set a goal to go see the basics of Australia - Cairns and Sydney. But, little did I know the travel bug was going to bite me so hard because I soon found myself navigating all over the country. Just to name some cities and activities, I ended up bungee jumping in Cairns, saw the Vivid Sydney city light show, went on two scuba live-aboards over the Great Barrier Reef, surfed in the Gold Coast, sailed the Whitsunday Islands, spent a week living in a tent on top of a car in Tasmania, and drove up the entire Western Coast of Australia to swim with whale sharks. I cannot emphasize enough how incredible each and every one of these trips were to me. It was an experience that made me grow so much as a person and motivated me beyond words to continue exploring and following my dreams.

My experience abroad was the perfect balance between academic inquisition and personal exploration. I left Australia knowing that this trip was only the beginning of my adventure or as I like to call it now, Life Abroad. I honestly have to say that studying abroad has changed my perspective on the opportunities that were globally available to me, and has ultimately allowed me to pursue my dream job in a dream location.

Right now my work in the Maldives includes organizing coral restoration projects, snorkels along the marine protected area, giving fish identification lectures, and guiding guests on turtle, manta ray, and whale shark excursions. I'm still trying to comprehend the fact that I am getting paid to swim with whale sharks. Never in a million years did I expect myself to land such an incredible opportunity right after graduation, and I honestly don't think I would be in this position right now if I didn't chose to study abroad during my time at the University of Miami.

I could not be happier with where I am at today and my advice to anyone who is considering studying abroad: Just do it and do it big!

- Jonathan Dorsey, '15