Student Reflections – Kyle Boehmer

CAN LIFE GET ANY BETTER….? #No

Hello from Cairns! I write from the northern part of the country and the launching point to THE Great Barrier Reef!

Today, myself, Veronika Jones, Kevin Born and Jessie Sariff embarked on a life changing adventure. We awoke to a beautiful sunrise over the mountains and the bay from our hotel balcony. 84 and sunny, not a cloud in the sky. We boarded our dive boat at approx 8:00am and began the 2 hour ride to our first dive site within the Great Barrier Reef – Hastings Reef. After breakfast on the top deck we could barely make out the mountains and shoreline behind us. It wasn’t long before we had to begin our rather extensive safety briefings. While Roni, Kevin and Jessie began their dive course, I grabbed my wet suit and headed into the reef for some snorkeling. On my way I happened to hear a young guy talking about Illinois and how he had gone to school there in the south. If it wasn’t enough to meet SIU alumni in Sydney on our first day, I met another SIU alum in the middle of the ocean on the Great Barrier Reef. #SIUisbig #theworldissmall

I cannot find the words to describe what I saw…. but having done extensive snorkeling and dive trips throughout Florida and Hawaii, nothing could have prepared me for what was ahead. Thousands upon thousands of fish…. all different colors. The coral looked like neon signs lit below the surface. The more I saw, the more I swam….. just colors everywhere. After about an hour, I hopped out of my wetsuit and headed over for a glass bottom boat tour. (the wetsuits are used not because the water is cold, but rather there are jellyfish. The ones you can see are usually harmless, its the one’s you can’t that can be fatal.)

Through the bottom, I was able to see jellyfish, Nemo’s cousin, and then a giant sea turtle. It wasn’t to long after that I regained my coveted spot on my sun bed on the top deck and anxiously awaited for Roni, Kevin and Jess to return from their first dives. I will let you read their blogs, especially Veronika’s. We then exchanged stories, and dined on local cuisine as we set sail for our 2nd dive site, White Patches. This location was unique as waves actually broke on the reef…. hence the name. This allowed for shallow snorkeling and a more hands on experience. At the suggestion of one of the crew members (a native of Florida State – and the only non Aussie guide) We decided to hire her for a private marine biology snorkel. The 4 us took turns holding different kinds of sea cucumbers, starfish and other native reef creatures. I also had the opportunity to dive down and “tickle” a clam the size of me to watch in sheer amazement, the clam slamming his sides together. The colors remained neon and the fish in the thousands. It is a place unlike any other….

To end the long day, we set sail back for Cairns around 3:30pm. As the four of us climbed onto our sun beds on the top deck, we were served glasses of local Aussie wine and some cheese. As we left the Reef behind us with more memories then we ever could of imagined I couldn’t help but say something. I arose from my sun bed and held my glass of shiraz up into the sun and said to Roni, Kevin and Jess….

“does life get any better then this?”………. with a look around and sip of our wine…. the answer was a unanimous….. “#No”

As the wine flowed, the sun began to set and our boat rocked gently in the breeze…We all fell deeper and deeper into the dream that is Australia. What I would’t give to experience that feeling again………….

To sum up the trip, my favorites….

— Prof. Dervan’s opening reception at Opera Bar during sunset = energy and atmosphere unlike any other place on earth

–The Great Barrier Reef = #lifecangetnobetter

— US Consulate briefings = best jobs in the world

–La Boehem live at Sydney Opera House = iconic

— Manley Beach / Bondi Beach / Iron Cove 4k = home

This trip has been noting short of dream-making and life changing. My most heartfelt thanks to SIU Law and Prof. Dervan and his family.

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