By Emma Shirley, For The Miami Student

On January 23, Erin Socha updated her Facebook profile picture. In the new photo, she’s standing on a crumbling cement pier with arms outstretched and a ladylike pointed toe, playing Vanna White to the bright Caribbean water extending behind her.

“The best office I’ll ever have,” the caption reads. Then, a hyphen, the infinitely familiar blue map pin, and her location: San
Salvador, Bahamas.

During winter term, Erin spent three weeks on an archaeological dig at the Gerace Research Centre for the Study of Archaeology, Biology, Geology and Marine Science. She and her Miami peers uncovered pottery, a hearth and something called a cert, all belonging to the Lucayan people who lived on the island when Christopher Columbus landed.

According to Erin, the airport runway on San Salvador takes up half the island. Airport security is housed in a shack, and the employees go through luggage by hand. Mailboats carry food and supplies to the 1,200 locals every couple of weeks.

Erin loves buildings. She loves watching them pop up and transform the skyline. And she should — she’s majoring in architecture.

“But,” she says, “there’s something about a skyline with nothing on it but a blue horizon … you can’t help but fall in love with it.”

Everything has a purpose, and nothing seems like it doesn’t belong.

At the end of J-term, Erin flew back to the Midwest and its intimidating airport security warnings, its alarm clock dependency, its too-many all-nighters in the architecture studio.

“I mean, I’m really happy here, too,” she says. “But it’s a different kind of happy.”

And, as she walks between meetings on a windy Sunday afternoon, she looks briefly to her feet, pretending for just a moment that she’s crossing not pavement, but sand.