Moxey’s education at BAMSI trumps international exposure
Academic and career goals were well in hand for Jerchoyae Moxey. Just a week after graduating from Kingsway Academy in 2015 she was on an airplane travelling to the University of Tasmania, where she had been accepted into the marine and antarctic sciences bachelor’s degree program.
While Jerchoyae’s experience was an amazing one — what teenager would not want to be half way around the world pursuing their passion, free of parental constraint and in an exotic location to boot — the focus on a world alien to all she knew, coupled with a lack of field exposure, caused her to reassess the way forward.
In the midst of figuring out her next move, however, the Bahamas Agriculture and Marine Science Institute (BAMSI) fell into her lap… changing the way she viewed the learning process, increasing her appreciation for home grown eduction, and getting her academic and career goals back on track.
And now, months later, Jerchoyae has wrapped up her first semester at BAMSI, having spent the past few months in Andros working toward an associates of science degree in marine science.
“BAMSI is amazing. It’s more hands-on than I ever would have expected. It doesn’t matter if you’re doing marine science or agriculture, they have you out learning about how you can improve your environment as compared to sitting in front of a computer screen. That’s how BAMSI changes everything and separates itself from all other universities,” she said.
In the beginning
Jerchoyae’s interest in all things marine began when she took her first swimming lesson around the age of six. It was love at first splash and it piqued an interest in her that has never wavered, but rather expanded due, in no small part, to the nurturing and encouragement offered by her parents and siblings.
“Once my parents realized I had an interest in it they put me in more swimming classes to better my abilities. They bought me every science book and a microscope which was very dear to me until it was broken (by the little hands of a sibling who would later redeem himself with his support). They always encouraged me, telling me that if you believe in yourself you can achieve what you want to do.”
As a student of Kingsway Academy, Jerchoyae’s passion for the field was further developed. In grade ten she joined the school’s scuba club and became certified in open water diving. She also received her certification in advanced open water diving. So, it was a surprise to no one that she chose to enter the field of marine science.
Following graduation, her decision to continue her education in Tasmania was, surprisingly, a rather straightforward process. “I was looking online for colleges in Australia — they have great white sharks and the great barrier reefs — and I stumbled across the University of Tasmania. I applied and got in the same day. My mom encouraged me to go, but my dad wasn’t too sure about it.”
With her mother’s help persuading him, Jerchoyae received her father’s blessing and one week after her high school graduation she was on a flight to Hobert, Tasmania (an island state of the Commonwealth of Australia) to take up marine and antarctic sciences because the semester started in July.
“I chose to go there because I was really interested in the great white sharks and thought it would be an amazing research opportunity. And it was all going great for a period of time, we had labs, lectures, but what was missing was the field work, going out looking at animals in their natural habitat. It was not as hands-on as I thought it would be and it was more focused on the Antarctic region.”
Jerchoyae had been a student at the University of Tasmania for a year and a half when it suddenly hit her: “Why am I here helping another country when I could be at home helping my own?”
In November 2016, she left Tasmania. She still wanted to pursue a degree in the field of marine science, but she was certain that Tasmania and the Pacific Ocean were not in the right hemisphere for her. Leaving school in November created a bit of a snag, however; for many schools the deadline to apply for the spring semester had passed. Not to be deterred, Jerchoyae planned to work for a few months, apply to schools in the interim and then restart her degree program in the fall of 2017.
“I wasn’t planning on going to school right away, but a friend of the family showed me and my sister this newspaper article about BAMSI and their new online courses that they had, and I decided that while I was going to work I would take up online courses to have information fresh in my mind. So, I got in contact with Ms. Cascharel Taylor, [BAMSI’s then admissions officer] and she informed me that I actually could apply to BAMSI for the spring semester, even though the deadline had passed. So that made it seem like everything was falling into place and that I was meant to go there — I thought nothing could happen until the fall, but BAMSI changed everything.”
Life in the midst of BAMSI
Not only did Jerchoyae leave Tasmania and the Pacific region, she quickly left the relative hustle and bustle of New Providence as well for the quiet outback of Andros. Life in the ‘big yard’ was… good. In Jerchoyae’s eyes, Andros and Tasmania differ in so many ways. Andros, the largest island in the chain of The Bahamas, is covered in pine forests and dense shrubs, and is largely flat. Tasmania on the other hand is hilly.
“If I decided to walk to school in Tasmania I would have to climb multiple hills.”
Like many small communities, with Jerchoyae’s arrival everyone wanted to know who the new girl was. “Over here there are lots of friendly people, they want to know you, they want to get to know you. In Tasmania, when I first got there it was quiet and I didn’t know anyone. They [classmates] knew each other already because they had started the semester together and I came in a little late. I was kind of like the odd girl out, but I was able to make a few friends at church.”
At school, Jerchoyae enjoys the smaller classes, which is not always the case at larger universities around the world. “You have more chance of having a one on one conversation with the lecturer if you need it, and in that case no one gets left behind,” she said.
It is the opportunity to do field work, to explore the local environment, to touch and smell and have the full sensory experience, however, that resonates most with her and is exactly why she made the transition to BAMSI.
“Following a marine ecology class where we were learning about jellyfish (cnidaria) and queen conchs, we went to the Conch Sound and Lowe Sound beaches to explore. We went into the water, and the lecturer, Dr. Barton, gave us a plastic bag and told us to recall what you have learned from the lecture. He said ‘go out and bring me five different ones each’ and he explained that this one does such and such in the water… That’s how BAMSI changes everything and separates itself from all other universities.”
One of the benefits of being at a smaller institution is also that your fellow classmates can quickly feel like family, and Jerchoyae describes them as “very accommodating”.
And at the dorms, where she is one of only a few young women, the male students call themselves her big brothers. “Once you get to know them we can all come together and hang out, and play dominoes or study together or just have fun,” she said.
“If I could go back to 2015 I would choose BAMSI,” Jerchoyae said, but she quickly corrects herself: “Probably not…but I don’t have any regrets. Everything up until now has led to BAMSI, so if I chose it from the start my experience may have been different. So I can appreciate it more having had that international experience. This has made me realize it’s never too late to make a change and realize if something isn’t working for you, you can always backtrack and fix it.”