This year I was privileged enough to be able to visit the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador. I really appreciated the opportunity as I had studied about the islands and animals which are endemic to it for years and years. In eighth grade, my final project in my science class was to make a video on why you should travel to the Galapagos Islands. To be able to actually fulfill this dream of mine years down the road was incredibly exciting!

I was a little bit shocked by the difference in culture: I barely spoke any Spanish, I was not fully prepared for the harshness of the sun, and I was not used to the unevenly paved roads. Everybody we encountered though was incredibly nice and helpful. I was astonished to see so much diversity in the fauna on the islands we visited. I was surprised by the climate and how drastically it changed when you changed elevations. The more time I spent there the more Spanish I learned, the more prepared I was for the sun, and the more nimble I was on my feet. I fell in love with the life on the island and the people who inhabited it!

I loved trying new foods, bonding with my fellow classmates, and learning along the way! While on the islands I saw hundred-year-old tortoises, blue footed boobies, marine iguanas, and many more endemic animals like them. I was pleasantly surprised to be able to swim with sea turtles, marine iguanas, and to see blue footed boobies dive into the water right next to me. The Galapagos Islands are more wildly unique and extremely exciting than I had ever expected them to be. I was glad to be accompanied by friends who had traveled internationally before as well as friends who spoke Spanish.

My trip to the Galapagos was full of incredibly diverse experiences and provided me with my first cross cultural experience as an adult. I hope to be able to continue to travel during my years of school as well as throughout my life. I am ever so grateful for the opportunities to travel I have had thus far.

Natalie Church is majoring in Art (Sculpture) and spent Spring Break 2019 in the Galapagos, Ecuador as part of a faculty-led trip through the Honors College. Natalie had the following to say about studying abroad, “The lava rocks and blue waves are calling.”

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