Center for International Programs, Biology, School of Science

There are several natural bodies of water worldwide where late night swimming is best on a moonless night. Just be wary of what lurks beneath the surface. 

The secret to the glow-in-the-dark water is harmless microorganisms called dinoflagellates. When the microorganisms are disturbed, they emit a blue light. In total darkness, the lagoon lights up.

Elene Sadzaglishvili '23 and three fellow Saints are near the end of a month-long stay in Mexico, based out of Puerto Escondido, shadowing doctors at various healthcare clinics in the area. Their experience is made possible through Siena's Global Medical Volunteers Program which provides pre-med students the opportunity to serve in disadvantaged regions around the world. Elena and her classmates are learning about the healthcare system in a different country while immersing themselves in a different culture. Immersing themselves in the Manialtepec Lagoon has also been a highlight of the experience. 

"When I was moving in the water, it would light up! But, that was in the same area where I saw a crocodile earlier in the day. They told us the crocodiles wouldn't come close because we were swimming so close to the islands. It was a very exciting experience, but a little scary!" 

Elena has free time evenings and weekends to swim and explore and ride horseback on the beach. During the day, she's observing doctors at the various clinics. Elene doesn't speak Spanish, so often the doctors will translate after the consultation (sometimes with the help of Google Translate).

"I've always been interested in medicine, and this has been an opportunity to see a different health system in a different country. It's fascinating to see the differences."

Elene, who is originally from the nation of Georgia, was able to be a "dentist for a week" through a program in high school. One day she gave a fake tooth a filling, and that's when she settled on dentistry as her career path. The experience in Mexico hasn't been at all related to dentistry, but in a very powerful way, her time in the clinics will be valuable in her future career. 

"I've learned how to talk to patients and how to behave around them. They come from different backgrounds, sometimes different cultures. This experience will help me be a better dentist. And even though I don't plan to be a doctor, I did get to examine a pregnant woman and listen to her baby's heartbeat. It was a very cool experience!"

Elene Sadzaglishvili '23