For many students, college is a time to try new things and discover new interests. And while Katherine Walgamotte was certainly open to new experiences when she arrived at Mississippi State, she never dreamed that scuba diving would be high on the list.
But when a friend invited her to learn more about the Scuba Dawgs, the student organization for scuba diving enthusiasts, her curiosity was piqued.
“I had a friend who was president of the group and he told me they were looking for new members,” Walgamotte said. “I had been a competitive swimmer growing up and I love being in the water so I thought scuba diving might be interesting. I just wound up really enjoying it, enjoying the people and enjoying the trips. It has been a great experience so far.”
The Scuba Dawgs usually take a diving trip once each semester, often to an inland water park in Alabama that’s specifically designed for diving. The group camps for a night and then spends the next day diving in the facility’s 130-foot lake, exploring things like a sunken bus or a shark cage. And though those trips were postponed last year due to the pandemic, the group is hoping to resume them this coming academic year.
Back on campus, Walgamotte said the group usually holds a couple of information sessions each semester, including one at the Sanderson Center called Discover Scuba, where interested students can experience what it’s like to swim while wearing scuba gear.
“One of the things people ask is whether or not you need to have you own gear,” Walgamotte said. “And thankfully, you don’t. Usually, the places where we go dive, you can rent gear while you’re there. You have to be certified to actually dive but, even if you aren’t, there’s usually areas where you can swim. It’s still lots of fun.”
Though she had to put things on hold because of the pandemic, Walgamotte is working towards earning her own scuba certification. The process involves passing an online class and then undertaking two open water dives with an instructor.
Now a senior majoring in biomedical engineering, the Slidell, Louisiana native said that spending time with the Scuba Dawgs has often been a welcome break from the rigors of her engineering classes.
“I think being involved in extracurricular activities is helpful for a lot of students,” Walgamotte said. “I’ve found that it’s important for me to have something to do that isn’t just studying and classwork. Otherwise, I’m just thinking about school all the time. Scuba Dawgs has been an easy, fun way to get involved with something unique. And it’s open to everybody so we have a fun, tight-knit mix of students. It’s been nice to get to know new people.
“Engineering is a challenging major so it’s great to have those moments to look forward to. Where I can say ‘oh, it’s the weekend. I get to go camping and diving with my friends.’ And being in the water is one of the best stress relievers I can think of. It’s just so relaxing.”