For many students, college is a time to try new things and discover new interests. While Katherine Walgamotte was open to new experiences when she arrived at Mississippi State, she never dreamed that scuba diving would be high on the list.
When a friend invited her to learn more about Scuba Dawgs, the MSU student organization for scuba diving enthusiasts, that piqued her curiosity.
“My friend, who was president of the group, told me they were looking for new members,” Walgamotte said. “I had been a competitive swimmer growing up and love being in the water, so I thought scuba diving might be interesting. I’ve wound up really enjoying it, enjoying the people and enjoying the trips. It has been a great experience so far.”
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 cage. Though trips were postponed last year due to the pandemic, the group is hoping to resume them this academic year.
Walgamotte said the group usually holds a couple of information sessions each semester on campus, 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 you need to have your 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 to earn 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 spending time with the Scuba Dawgs is 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. 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.
“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,’” she continued. “Being in the water is one of the best stress relievers I know. It’s just so relaxing.”