Spring break in the Florida Keys

Dylyn Kotteles | Courtesy
Dylyn Kotteles | Courtesy

By Katherine Bishop

Virginia Wesleyan College staff and students will take part in the ninth annual Spring Break trip to the Florida Keys March 19 through March 24. The trip will cost $525, and will cover transportation expenses, lodging and activities. Food expenses are not covered, but students will have the opportunity to shop at the local supermarkets and taste the local cuisine.
The maximum amount of students that go on the trip is 10, including two residence life staff that will be driving. The school rents a 15-passenger van that will be driven down to Florida on the first day, March 19, and will be used to transport the students and staff back to the Wesleyan campus on the last day, March 24.
Students going on the school’s Spring Break trip can expect to do a range of activities. Activities include a 20-mile kayak tour, snorkeling, jet skiing around Key West and spending extra time relaxing on the Florida beaches.
Jason Seward, the dean of freshmen and director of the Jane P. Batten Center, is the lead for this year’s trip, and has gone every year.
“Each trip is special. I try to make each trip unique for the students going. The wildlife in the Florida Keys has provided some of the most memorable moments. We’ve had up-close encounters with manatees, iguanas, tarpon, scorpions and everyone’s favorite “six toed” cats at the former home of Ernest Hemingway,” Seward said.
Dr. Doug Kennedy, the department coordinator for recreation and leisure studies, has assisted Seward on the trips for a number of years. Kennedy considers the Florida Keys a second home because he has been traveling there since the early 1980s visiting friends and family.
“The kayaking is really special because you’re out there in the water, and we usually see manatees and sometimes some alligators. The snorkeling is pretty special too because you go out to a reef, and there aren’t a lot of reefs off the United States you can go and snorkel on. That’s really limited to down in Florida. So a ship goes out there, and the visibility of the water has got to be 50-60ft usually,” Kennedy said.
Kennedy believes that more students should take some type of trip while they are in college because it is when they have multiple opportunities to do so as Virginia Wesleyan provides this trip to the Keys as well as a winter session trip to Maui.
Senior Dylyn Kotteles went on the trip her sophomore year in 2014.
“One thing I remember was enjoying the sunset before the Ghost tour in Key West because everyone gathered around on the edge of the dock to watch the sun go down. I even got a pretty awesome picture of the sunset and a boat passing by. Another favorite part of the trip was where we stayed, the dock, sunset and entire area was like paradise,” Kotteles said.
The trip can vary from year to year as to where lodging is and what activities students will embark on. This year, the students will stay at the La Jolla Resort in Islamorada. The group will visit places such as the Bahia Honda State Park where they will snorkel, Key West where they will go jet ski on a 23-mile trip and Indian Key where they will kayak with manatees and learn about the history of the land.
Sophomore Emily Burkard is mostly looking forward to jet skiing in Key West. Junior Julian Thompson is also mostly excited about going on the trip to Key West to jet ski, but in general is looking forward to visiting a tropical place such as the Keys.
The trip sold out in six minutes with there being a line of people wanting to take part in it waiting for Seward. The school has a limit on the amount of students that can go on any trip for a reason.
“One of the realities is when we have more people besides having more transportation, then it becomes less of a personal experience and you just have a whole lot of people and a whole lot of dynamics. Jason and I do the Maui winter session together, and we intentionally limit the number of people that go on the trip because we want everyone to have the right kind of experience, and when you have too many people it really ruins the experience,” Kennedy said.
Experience is one of the main goals Seward and Kennedy hope for the students as they both describe the Keys as a unique experience. The students going on the Spring Break trip will get that experience due to the staff’s love for the Keys, love for different experiences and their want for the students to enjoy themselves.