What made this study abroad experience unique?
Nina: I spent three months in the Galapagos Islands!!!!! I have never heard of another program which would allow me to study in the Galapagos for more than a couple of weeks. I also spent a month on the mainland, in which I climbed a volcano, hiked through the Andes, lived in the historic city of Quito, rode horseback through the alpine plains above the city, took a field trip to the cloud forest, rode a night bus to the coast, shopped in Otovalo, and so much more. Most notably, I spent a week at the Tiputini Biodiversity Station in the Amazon, an incredible privilege that few humans will ever get.
How has this experience impacted your future?
Nina: Personally, this has been the best year of my life. I’ve met great, lifetime friends research mentors. Academically, I fulfilled a full semester of credits for my major in Evolution and Ecology, and secured an opportunity to do independent, publishable research on green sea turtles when I return to South America in the spring.
Professionally, I have been inspired to pursue a career in evolutionary or ecological research. My classes and experiences here are helping me decide on my goals for undergraduate research, graduate school and beyond.
What did IES do for you and what did you need to do on your own?
Nina: IES told me when to arrive and depart, but I had to buy the plane tickets. IES gave me instructions on how to apply for a visa, but I had to do all the applying (which is a HUGE struggle, so start the process months ahead of time!) IES gave me an extra two-day orientation before the University orientation in Ecuador. IES helped me buy a cell phone and plan. They also provided great support, responding to my e-mails and phone calls when I needed them to.
Where was your best photo taken and what was it of?
Nina: The best photo I took was of the Amazon rainforest from the canopy tower. This photo means a lot to me because I have a huge fear of heights, and just getting to the top of the 150 foot tall canopy tower was the scariest thing I’ve ever done. Then I found calmed down enough to stop shaking and take a photo. The view was exactly what I had always imagined the Amazon Rainforest to be. I felt immeasurably older that night, having already seen the Amazon from above in my life.