Emma Strand: Living Abroad: Round 3

Florence, Italy. Roatán, Honduras. St. George’s, Bermuda.

I can’t seem to stay at LMU. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love the school and living by the California beaches since I’m from Seattle, but there’s something about the adrenaline rush of traveling. When I was little I made a general life-long bucket list for a school project. As I watched it keep growing with cities across the world and goals I wanted to accomplish, I felt a sense of urgency. One lifetime just doesn’t seem like enough to experience all this world has to offer. So here I am now, ten years later, living abroad for the third time.

Fall semester of my junior year at LMU I took a break from my biology major courses and studied sculpture, along with other cores, in Florence, Italy. Although my attempts at becoming Lizzie McGuire by dating an Italian man so I could ride a moped failed, I had the semester of a lifetime. I ate too much pasta and made strong new friendships. We traveled on the weekends: felt at home with nature in Switzerland, explored Amsterdam by bike, and got blown away by the wind, and views, at the Cliffs of Moher. The following summer I packed my bags again, but this time with my diving gear to spend a month in Roatán, Honduras at Roatán Institute for Marine Sciences. I immediately got used to island life, long boat rides, and diving two to three times a day. We were conducting ecology research on the coral reefs of the Bay Islands, which include some of the healthiest reefs in the world. As cliché as it is, I’ve known I want to do marine biology for as long as I can remember. I never grew out of the little kid being excited to go to the aquarium phase. Roatán was a glimpse of my ideal future as a scientist and after I had gotten a taste of the research and life, I left the island starving for more.

And that leads me to where I am now, in St. George’s Island, Bermuda at Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences. I’ve somehow managed to ditch the Fall season in LA again to be a research assistant in a coral ecology and molecular lab. Turns out pink beaches are real, the fried calamari on the island is unbeatable, and the sunsets are brighter than my future (just kidding, I hope). Three years ago, I was scared to attend college two states away from home. In the last year, I’ve been to 12 countries, 30+ cities, worked abroad twice, and studied abroad twice. I’m incredibly proud of how hard I’ve worked to get to where I am now. But most of all, I’m proud to be the person I am because of it. I think my life has quite literally turned into the storyline of Eat. Pray. Love. I mean, minus the whole mid-life crisis and divorce part. But oddly enough, I’m alright with that.

I travel because it is humbling. Once out of your bubble, you see how small of a place you take up in the world. You realize the difference between insignificance and importance. One of my favorite aspects is being limited with material things, you can’t easily bring three bags with you on a plane. The people you’re with, the work you’re doing, and how much your character is growing are important.

If you lead an ordinary life, you’ll only have ordinary stories.


Emma is a senior Biology major who has studied abroad for a semester in the Gonzaga in Florence program and a summer in the LMU Summer in Roatan program, in addition to her own research and internships abroad. Check out emmastrand.weebly.com for more of her incredible photos.