I had a just over a week between finishing my Divemaster course, which wrote about here Divemasters at UDC in Utila! and starting my IDC course.
The IDC or Instructor development course, is a 2 week long intense course aimed at teaching and training you to become a dive instructor.
At the end of the 2-week courses you must pass the 2-day IE (instructor examination)
For these exams an external examiner comes to the island and assesses every candidate on the island. Regardless of which shop they have trained with.
UDC boasted a 100% pass rate which was both comforting and daunting.
However, before the fun began I had 10 days to kill.
In the 10 days leading up to the start of the IDC I became very close friends with my other candidates. We knew the following 2 weeks were going to be tough, so we decided to blow off steam beforehand. We spent our nights enjoying all the delights of Utila and our days recovering and diving!
A few days before the start of the course we had 4 evening study sessions where I realised I was in for a struggle. I admit that during my divemaster course I had skim read all the theory elements and this came back to bite me.
The theory behind becoming an Instructor encompassed Physiology, Dive Equipment, Physics, Decompression theory and general dive knowledge.
The practise exam highlighted just how much studying I needed to do! The pass rate was 85% and I was getting closer to 60%.
Time to knuckle down! We all made a pact that for the duration of the IDC we wouldn’t go out or drink!
Week one of the IDC has now become a bit of a blur. We were in a classroom from 8-5 and were given various presentations about the dive industry and its course content. Expertly delivered by Juicy, our course director and B the staff instructor while the wonderful Tom was learning to become a staff instructor.
Both had huge amounts of experience in the industry. Juicy had only recently become a Course Director and this was his first solo IDC! The pressure was on him and us to continue the 100% pass rate!
The tireless B was there before us everyday and left long after us, she had completed many many IDCs as a staff instructor and knew the drill.
They were both able to make the presentations interactive and interesting, even the ones that were quite laborious.
The days were very long and intense and unfortunately our non-drinking pact lasted about 2 days. Some of these long days were made even longer by the pounding headaches from the excesses the night before.
During the first week my brother and sister, who had been having a summer trip around the Caribbean, came to stay.
With my days spent in the classroom the undertook their Open Water Diver course. They were taught by Duncan, Max, and Saray with Kevin and Hope DMing. Eagerly awaited the evenings when they could fill me in on their day and how they were finding entering my underwater world.
I also got some positive feedback from the professionals teaching them. It was a shame I was so busy and didn’t get to spend much time with them while they were here, but it was amazing to see the real world and my dive world collide in such a way.
Both Tom and Beth got a great insight into my lifestyle as well as how hard I was working on this course.
As I said before the majority of week one was in the classroom with occasional trips to the cold swimming pool. As we entered our 2nd week we were able to get back into the sea. Doing open water dives in mock teaching scenarios. Learning how to see problems and rectify them. We were learning how to teach, and it was slowly sinking in.
The theory on the other hand was taking its sweet time to make sense. The physics were a struggle. If a person breathes this much air at 5m how much would they breath at 40 etc.
It was an emotional roller coaster, for the delight at passing presentations to the despair and anger at failing one.
I was completely drained, my brain was all over the place and I got myself really quite down.
We would all get together in the evenings and study.
Exhausted and with our brains overflowing we finished our IDC. It was now time for our mock IE.
The mock would dictate if we were put forward for the actual IE.
The 2-day mock involved an open water exam, a confined water exam, a theory exam, a presentation and a display of various dive skills.
Up to this point I had passed everything except theory, however the stars aligned, and I passed everything on my mock!
I had a day off before the actual IE. We filled this day with a fun dive. Our first fun dive for 2 weeks! We spent all spent this dive being silly, taking lots of photos and having so much fun!
That evening we met our examiners and got given our assignments. The examiners put us all at ease immediately. They were not looking for reasons to fail us, more the opposite. They were keen for us to pass.
I had luck on my side with my assignments, they were all things I was very confident with. This confidence was rightly placed as I had a prefect score on my open water presentations.
A great start, but up next was the theory. My stumbling blocks. We had 2 exams and I remember leaving them convinced I had messed up and failed. I even text my mum bracing her for the news.
Heart pounding, I received my score……. I had answered only 4 questions wrong out of the 120 asked. The studying had paid off! I was over the moon.
With the exam out of the way I felt like I was on the home straight.
Day 2 of the exams was only a half day. Confined water presentation, skill demonstration and an oral presentation.
I had done well in practise for these and perhaps took my foot off the ball. Scoring quite low in the confined section. A pass but I was annoyed with myself none the less. I did my skills and my oral presentation and waited for the outcome.
A pass!!!!!! I had passed!! Everyone had passed!!! I was beside myself! I phoned mum straight away and had to fight back tears! I truly didn’t believe I would pass and have never ever worked that hard for something in my life! I know everyone else was feeling the same pride!
We had our certificate presentation and posed for graduation photos before going straight to the shops, bought a bottle of Fireball and headed to the dock.
The IE night is a notorious night on the island, all the islands candidates celebrating and their friends joining in!
At UDC we do a sunset cruise followed by a Candidates meal. What happens at the meal however must remain a secret!
We celebrated long into the night and again my memories of the night become a haze!
But I had done it, I was a qualified instructor!
It was an incredible feeling and one I dined out on for the next few days.
Before I knew it though it was time to head back to the UK for my dads wedding.
I said some sad farewells to some amazing people, people who had become my family while I had been away!
Not that I would be gone for long, I had booked a return flight, to return to Utila after the wedding.