Formed by underwater volcanoes millions of years ago, the archipelago is made up of 13 major islands, six smaller islands, and scores of islets and rocks. The first historical account of the islands came in 1535 when the Bishop of Panama, Tomas de Berlanga, stumbled upon the Galapagos by mistake when his ship drifted off course. Berlanga first referred to the islands as Las Encantadas or The Enchanted Islands.
Visits to the islands were initially reserved for scientists and exotic vacations for the rich. Only five of the islands are permanently inhabited, making the Galapagos a uniquely pristine environment for the tortoises, sea turtles, penguins, marine iguanas, and hundreds of other species living there. The Galapagos Islands now generate over $55 million USD in tourism every year. The islands were first publicized when Charles Darwin conducted his momentous study there on evolution by means of natural selection.
Photo credit: hartjeff12
Due to the sensitive nature of the Galapagos Islands, immigration and tourist travel to the islands are limited by the Ecuadorian government. This means prices can be quite high when you are trying to visit the islands. Don't lose track of your finances!
Ecuadorian residents and students with an International Student Identification Card (ISIC) can get discounts on flights and fees for visiting the islands. Once on the islands, you will not notice much on an increase in the cost of living from the mainland, but there might be a slight increase since nearly everything has to be imported to the islands.
Programs in the Galapagos Islands can vary in cost and in what they include so it is important to check with your program coordinator or advisor for what your program includes. For travel between the islands, there are some flights available but the main mode of transportation is via boat. Check that you are traveling with a licensed service when going from island to island. For travel around the towns, there are taxi services available but many of them are small enough where you would be able to walk most places.
Scholarships: Galapagos Islands
Does studying abroad sound fabulous but expensive? While it is true, studying abroad can mean added costs, there are still a variety of ways to offset the extra expenses.
- The Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities provides scholarships in Ecuador to excellent students of Hispanic descent.
- Boren scholarships and fellowships are an excellent option for American students looking to study abroad.
- Check out the scholarship options available to World Endeavors program participants (psst..they even have a great, comprehensive program in Ecuador!)
- More Study Abroad Grants and Scholarships
Culture and Immersion
Most of the Galapagos Islands are designated as a wildlife sanctuary. This means that studying in the Galapagos Islands will give you a unique experience to study amazing animals and habitats that cannot be found anywhere else in the world! The islands' unique history as a penal colony and a trading stop for whalers makes this an interesting location for those interested in history and sociology as well as biology.
While in the Galapagos, you can go snorkeling with sea turtles, hike to the top of an active volcano, learn about the islands' history as a penal colony, visit tortoise breeding centers and much more.
Like on the mainland, family continues to be an important aspect of life on the Galapagos. Living with a family on the Galapagos Islands will give you a unique way to experience the islands, but going for a short term intercession program can be very rewarding as well.
Since the primary source of income for the Galapagos Islands is tourism, many Ecuadorians move there to cash in on the industry. This means that local shops, markets, and restaurants can be found on Santa Cruz, Isabela and the other inhabited islands in the archipelago. The relaxed beach culture is evident in these areas and adds to the feeling of an exotic paradise, just imagine watching sea lions play on the beach as you enjoy a sunset dinner on the water.
Culture Shock and Support System
Going to the Galapagos Islands will be different from anything you have experienced in your life. Although this can be scary at first, reminding yourself why you are there is important when coping with culture shock. Did you come to experience the world that Darwin wrote about? Are you trying to learn how to repopulate an endangered species? Perhaps you just needed to gain a sense of independence while learning about one of the most unique places on the planet.
Whatever your reason is, remember that there was a good reason that you decided to study abroad and that everything will turn out okay, even if you are a little homesick at first.
Establishing a strong support system is essential when studying abroad. Don't be afraid to tell your friends and your host family if you are feeling homesick. Having people in your host country who care about you can make all the difference in the world when studying abroad so get involved and meet people who you can have fun with and rely upon for support. Participating in an activity you enjoyed at home may help you establish a support system and feel more comfortable in your life abroad.