June 7, 2016

Feature: Alissa Lampert

Sam Russo ‘18

Imagine you’re underwater. It’s late at night, pitch-black and you have no idea where you’re trying to go. There’s only one other person with you. On top of all of that, your oxygen is running low.
This was the situation in which sophomore Alissa Lampert, a budding marine biologist, found herself last summer when she went on a night dive with one of her friends.
“We  look[ed] around for a while [underwater],” Lampert said. “Nothing [was] happening. We [didn’t] see anything… so we went up, and we looked around and we [saw] our boat way in the distance. The first thing I saw was the island near us, and I got really scared [because I did not see the boat].” 
Eventually, the pair located their boat, but instead of going underwater, they “had to swim back the entire way because [they] didn’t have enough air or directional skills to go back down.”
This unique experience was part of a three-week long summer trip that Lampert took over the summer of 2015. Each day began with the thirteen campers waking up on their catamaran at about 6:30 a.m. They would eat breakfast and then head out for their daily scuba dive. Afterwards, they would do a variety of activities, ranging from hanging out on the beach to snorkeling and doing aquatic research. At night, Lampert would return to her cozy bed: a bench on the boat’s deck. For meals, she was forced to survive off of canned soup because of the limitations of Kashrut.
Despite some of this discomfort, Lampert was able to have an amazing time and get a lot out of her trip. One of the most surprising parts of hearing Lampert’s recounting of her experience was the positive way in which it changed her.
Rather than talking about how she became a better diver or now has more knowledge of marine life, the first thing Lampert noticed was her improved independence.
“I’m definitely more independent,” she said. “I guess [now] I can talk to people… Because it wasn’t just my dad feeding me things and I had to… help other people with their problems underwater.”
Before this experience, she “couldn’t really talk to adults… [and] talking to new people was always hard” for her, but being pushed to make 13 new friends forced her expand her boundaries.
When asked why she decided to participate in this program, Lampert explained, as if it was the most natural thing in the world or a normal childhood experience: “I started diving when I was eight, and… ever since then I loved it.”
As she thought back to her first time diving, in a hotel pool, Lampert recalled that she knew from the start that scuba diving was right for her. In fact, the instructor said that she was able to stay underwater the longest of anyone her age he had ever seen before.
For some people, their hobbies may include sports or music or dance, but Lampert seems to have found her niche.

For her, diving serves as both an educational opportunity and also an escape for the world when she is surrounds herself with complete silence under the water. It seems fitting that after eight years of practice and dedication, Lampert was able to reach a major landmark this summer while on the trip of a lifetime: her 100th dive.
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