By Rebekah Crozier
Samford University offers more than 50 study-abroad opportunities for students. One of the most unique trips available for students is the trip to the Caribbean island of Saba led by Jennifer Rahn, a professor in the Geography and Sociology department at Samford. While Rahn did not lead a trip this past February due to COVID-19, she hopes to start back in 2022.
Although she teaches many different science courses, Rahn specializes in coastal geomorphology.
“As a coastal geomorphologist I study the area where the land meets the sea,” Rahn said. “This is a dynamic environment and I use interdisciplinary information and tools from other applied sciences such as geology, meteorology, oceanography, coastal engineering and elements of biology.”
Rahn first traveled to the island of Saba in 1990 to learn how to scuba dive. While she was there, she befriended the owners of the Sea Saba Dive Center and worked at the Dive Center for two years as a divemaster.
“While I was living on Saba, I fell in love with the beauty of the tropical island, the fantastic coral reefs and the friendly people,” Rahn said.
Saba is an island unlike many others in the Caribbean. Rahn explained that Saba is only five square miles and does not have any typical hotels or beaches.
“The beaches on Saba are black sand or made of rounded cobbles. Most of the island has a dramatic cliffed coastline. The island itself is an inactive volcano,” Rahn said.
When Rahn came to Samford in 2007, she continued her research on Saba and began the Saba study-abroad program in 2009. The trip is 16 days long and has been done over Jan-Term in the past. Rahn said the entire trip is full of outdoor activities and the adventure begins with the plane ride to the island. Saba holds the world’s smallest commercial runway and those who go on the trip ride on a small plane that fits only 15 people at a time.
While on the island, students spend most of their days underwater. They practice and improve their dive skills and witness firsthand the nature underneath the water. On days when they are not diving, Rahn takes the students to do service projects, go on hikes around the island or learn from local artists.
Rahn believes that there is a lot for students to learn from going on this study-abroad trip. Students will witness the culture and lifestyle of the small island and, of course, experience scuba diving like they never have before.
“My favorite part is seeing students’ eyes light up with joy and wonder and amazement at the beauty of the underwater world,” Rahn said. “Over 70% of the earth is covered in water and most people don’t ever get to see God’s amazing creations on the seafloor.”
The island of Saba has been closed to tourists due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but it will reopen in May of this year. Jennifer Rahn is excited to continue introducing Samford students to the island of Saba through this study-abroad program.