On Dec. 3, Michy Ramos boarded a plane to Miami. She went from there to Santiago, Chile, ahead of setting off to her final destination: Antarctica.
The 17-year-old Kennesaw Mountain High School senior is one of four students from the United States to attend the Joint Antarctic School Expedition, offered through the Institute of Arctic Studies at Dartmouth College. Ramos is the first student from Georgia to be accepted into the program.
Participants headed first to Punta Arenas in Chile, where they were joined by 16 Chilean students at the Chilean Antarctic Institute. There, they will study glaciers and animal life at Torres del Paine National Park, home of the Ichthyosaur fossil graveyard.
Then, it’s off to King George Island in Antarctica.
“We’re going to meet with the scientists (at the Professor Julio Escudero Station) and learn about the work they’re doing,” Ramos said the week of her departure. “And then we’re going to conduct some field research.”
That includes observing the behaviors of penguins and seals, various environmental studies, glacier hiking and igloo living. There may also be opportunities to visit the bases of other countries stationed on the island.
Ramos attends the Academy of Mathematics, Science, & Technology — KMHS’s STEM magnet program. Her class load this year includes calculus, genetics, biology, anatomy and a cybersecurity internship at Triton Digital’s Atlanta office.
In October, Ramos was accepted to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida, where she will major in aerospace engineering and play on the school’s softball team. Ramos was the MDJ’s 2016-17 Girls Athlete of the Year and was recently named to the Softball All-State Team.
Her goal is to become an astronaut.
“Space, stars, life on other planets: I’ve always been insanely interested in,” Ramos said. “Ever since I saw E.T., I was like ‘Mom, I’m going to space, I’m gonna find E.T.’”
First, it’s off to the South Pole.
“I’m stressed out,” Ramos confessed, “but I’m really excited to be able to have the opportunity to do this.”
Ramos stumbled upon the JASE program while perusing Dartmouth’s website last year, and applied on a whim. The acceptance call came in June. Since then, Ramos has been preparing for her trip to the bottom of the globe.
Preparing for the extreme weather has been her chief concern.
“It’s December here in Georgia, and I’m sitting outside in a T-shirt,” said Ramos. “I looked at the weather for when I’m in King George and (we’re supposed to get) five inches of snow in one day!”
Since the program is conducted in Spanish, participants had to be fluent in the language. Ramos speaks Spanish at home with her parents and sister, but has been working with her Spanish teacher at KMHS on the scientific vocabulary. She’s looking forward to working with and learning from the others in her group as well as their Chilean counterparts.
Other requirements included a background in science, two letters of recommendation, responding to several short-answer essays and passing a rigorous medical examination.
“The opportunities are endless. I think a lot of people don’t look at it like that,” Ramos said. “They just look at some of the opportunities available and only go for one or two of them.”
Ramos’ approach is to take every opportunity she can, even the chance to go to Antarctica.
“The worst thing they can say is ‘yes.’ That’s when your life changes,” she said.
Ramos said the support from her school, family and friends has been tremendous.
“I’m so grateful for them,” Ramos said. “I could not have done this without all the support I’ve had from them.”
The Joint Antarctic School Expedition is currently accepting applications for the winter 2018 program.