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Summer Internship on Pacific Island Tests Senior’s Flexibility

Tasks at Chuuk Visitors Bureau Range from Marketing to Public Health and IT Troubleshooting

Published: Aug 10, 2012
Archer said, “I've learned a lot about dealing and communicating with people."
Archer said, “I've learned a lot about dealing and communicating with people."
For two months, the UT senior has lived on an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean called Chuuk, one of the four states of the Federated States of Micronesia.
For two months, the UT senior has lived on an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean called Chuuk, one of the four states of the Federated States of Micronesia.
If you can locate the Philippines on a map, than you might know where Jan-Michael Archer ’13 spent his summer. For two months, the UT senior has lived on an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean called Chuuk, one of the four states of the Federated States of Micronesia, situated east of the Philippines and north of Papua New Guinea.

How does a UT student from Stone Mountain, GA, end up on an atoll for the summer?

It helps to have well-traveled parents. Archer’s mom, a non-governmental agency startup consultant, visited Chuuk a few years ago and knew that the diving opportunities would appeal to her son. So the UT student contacted the Chuuk Visitors Bureau, which was indeed looking for an intern this summer.

“The Visitors Bureau handles everything, including diving, tourism, conservation, local remediation, trade agreements, marketing Chuuk to other countries, merchandising, oh man, the list goes on,” said Archer. “We've done so much since I got here.”

One day Archer might go to the Chuuk governor's office to sit in on a meeting about infrastructure, another day he might help his home stay family with their English, another day he might help the Chuuk Women's Council write an ad campaign for HIV/AIDS prevention, or he might talk grant money allocation and budgeting with the Chuuk Conservation Society. Archer has been to the College of Micronesia: Chuuk Campus to help film a documentary about career development in the healthcare field, went to the local supermarket to reprogram their cash registers, and gone diving with a team to search for an undocumented World War II fighter plane a fisherman spotted.

“I mean, it really has just been all over the place. I've met the president, other elected officials, tribal leaders, a princess, published scientists, international law enforcement officers,” said Archer, “and I'm just loving every second of it.”

Archer credits his UT professors for giving him the skills that have made him so versatile.

“If it weren't for Santiago Echeverry in the art program, I wouldn't have been able to dazzle the people down here with Adobe Flash animations to make their presentations really pop out and work out some of the html problems they were having with their websites,” he said. “If it weren't for Mark McRae, I wouldn't know anything about the reefs out here. And oh man, evolution isn't such a big hit down here but thank god I learned it thoroughly in classes with Mason Meers and Todd Campbell, because you really have to be on your toes with these creationists.”

Archer said that island life, especially life on a small island, means everyone knows each other.

“I'm practically famous,” he laughed. “I've learned a lot about dealing and communicating with people. I always considered myself cultured, what with growing up in an immigrant household (his parents immigrated to the U.S. from Guyana in South America), but coming out here has really showed me how to shut my mouth and listen.”

Archer, an organismal and evolutionary biology major minoring in psychology and new media production, received his scuba certification in an open water course at UT. He had 25 dives under his belt by the time he got to Chuuk and was able to add at least eight more this summer: three ships, one bomber aircraft and four reefs. He would like to return to the Pacific for a graduate program and pursue environmental research on the reefs.

One of the most memorable experiences for Archer was diving the Fujikawa Maru wreck. More than 400 feet long, the wreck was covered in sea cucumbers, all types of brain, star and lettuce corals, all types of algae, plus grouper, snappers and rainbow runners.

“And that's just the appeal on the surface. We went down 60 feet inside the ship's hull where there were four fighter jets,” he said. “That dive is without a doubt one of the coolest things I've ever experienced.”

And it was just par for the course for Archer’s summer in Chuuk.

“It's been a wild and exhilarating ride for sure.”


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