This is my first blog with Zoox, so let me introduce myself first. My name is Sylvie and I am originally from Germany – so I warn you upfront that my sentences by default can be very long (and a lot of additional information tends to end up in brackets ;-)). Before joining Zoox as a ZEP I completed a PhD in fundamental research in the field of bioengineering / molecular biology / microfluidics in the beautiful town of Lausanne in Switzerland. And prior to that I graduated with a degree in engineering – hence not at all related in any way to marine conservation. But along my way I was fortunate enough to study and do research in Australia (where I discovered my love for diving and the underwater world) and Singapore (from where I went to many more diving trips around SE Asia). What attracted me to the Zoox Experience Program, was the opportunity to give my wish to change career a go and learning along the way on the job, even without any formal university training in that field.
Now, it has been exactly 10 days since I arrived here in the little paradise of Aninuan, Puerto Galera. It feels like I’ve been here already for a long time due to the amount I learnt in that short period and at the same time these days have been running so fast.
Without any professional background in marine biology or environmental science nor any practical experience in field projects, I first felt very intimidated and was not sure whether I could pick up the required knowledge in such a short time. I have been impressed by the profound knowledge that JJ, Chloë and Sam convey in each lecture and their very reassuring teaching style. It’s going to be a long way for me to get to a similar level but it’s for sure a steep learning curve right now with loads of fun and excitement along the way.
The first days were dedicated to give Tracy, the other ZEP volunteer, and me the base knowledge for the job at hand and background information beyond that to get us started in a possible career in marine conservation, as well as showing us potential jobs within the field that might fit our strengths and interests. The latter is a very strong point that I want to highlight: I’ve never come across any volunteering program that really cares about your personal development, let alone dedicates a section of education to it (and I’ve been looking at quite a few by now, although not participated actively in a long one like this yet). This goes to show how much the two initiators, JJ and Chloë, are interested in you, not only as a volunteer on THIS program, but in you feeling comfortable about your choice and you having the tools you need to make necessary changes. Since I arrived I felt really warmly welcomed (not only by the sun and h
eat, that is). The two have been so lovely from the beginning, before I even booked my flight. They made sure that I understood what to expect and answered every nervy email from me. Meeting them and Sam in person and starting the program even exceeded my expectations. Everybody is super friendly, helpful in any way and very patient and the program is extremely well organized and structured. Already after just a few days here the whole team felt like good friends.
Before I joined Zoox as a volunteer, I had my doubts about whether this program would be right for me and whether I am not lacking too many skills and knowledge to this type of marine conservation. Now I still feel overwhelmed by the wealth of relevant information and potential things to read and educate myself on, but I am quite positive that it will come over time. Although super nervous, I am also super excited to get going with our first Green Fins training presentation and assessments as well as to find a project on which to work on.
And while going on vacation to the Philippines for diving (which some of my friends and family were to believe I am doing here mainly) might be already great in its own rights, going there to do something useful for your personal development and for the environment makes it so much better 🙂