Why did you want to go to the Galapagos?
I was really led to go to the Galapagos because of its notability as an ideal place to study biodiversity. I was really interested in understanding more about the ecology of the region, since the area is so famed for its contributions to evolution and ecology. Also, I love the ocean and the idea of spending so many weeks right next to the beach was very enticing.
What specifically are you doing in Galapagos?
While in Galapagos, we take four courses that are each three weeks long. We are currently in the middle of our last course. The courses I have taken while in Galapagos include native and introduced plants of the Galapagos, island biogeography, political ecology, and GIS. After I finish the last course, I will begin working on research through the Galapagos Science Center on Whale Sharks for six weeks.
What has been the most impactful experience you’ve had while in Galapagos?
It is so difficult to pick just one experience. I’ve had so many impactful experiences that I have to narrow it down to two. First, being able to visit and explore islands other than the island we are living on was really interesting because all the inhabited islands in the archipelago are so different, despite their relatively close proximity. Second, attending this program has allowed me to meet so many amazing people– professors, students, and Ecuadorians alike. One of my favorite parts of this trip has been getting to know people that I may have never met otherwise. I have loved learning and growing from being around people who are so different from myself.
What is the biggest lesson you’ve taken away from your experience in Galapagos?
Learning to say YES to as many things as possible! The best experiences I’ve had here generally have stemmed from me reminding myself to say yes to doing things. It can get easy to become complacent and resistant against things that may seem a little hard at first. I’m so much happier after having tried something new, even if it is something small like going on a hike to a beach I haven’t visited yet. One of the things I was really looking to do during my study abroad experience was trying new things, as so far I can check lots of things off of my to-try list!
Do you have any advice for other students who are considering going to the Galapagos?
This experience is unlike anything I had imagined, so definitely come in with an open mind and a willingness to be exposed to new things, even if they seem scary! The things you’ll learn here are so much more than just the scientific concepts they teach in the classroom. There’s a whole lot to adjust to when it comes to living with host families, including small things like trying new foods, and bigger adjustments like having conversations only in Spanish. Being exposed to a new culture has taught me so much about the lifestyles of people that live here and has challenged me to consider how differently I live here as compared to how I live my life back home.
I’m still pinching myself every other day, just to make sure that being here isn’t a dream! I feel so extremely lucky to be here and the thrill still hasn’t worn off after the 12 weeks we’ve been here.