Let’s Talk About Classes

Catherine Putzier
October 30, 2021

I have yet to write about my classes in the Galápagos, which is a little strange considering it’s a large portion of how I spend my time here! Despite what my Instagram might make you think, I am “studying” abroad and not just “snorkeling” abroad.

In the GAIAS program, our semester is divided into five, three-week-long classes. We take one at a time, which means that we get to do a deep dive into a new subject every few weeks! The five classes that I signed up for are Geographic Information Systems, Native and Introduced Plant Species, Field Ecology, Origins of Species and Biodiversity, and finally Freshwater Ecology (which I will take in the Amazon!).

We are currently in the fourth module, and at this point I thought it would be fun to list a couple of nice points about our classes so far:

  1. The barrier between students and professors is very small here. This is something that can change a lot depending on which country you decide to study abroad. Here in the Galápagos, we call our professors by their first name and have very open discussions throughout class, which I really appreciate.
  2. We go on so many field trips, which means a lot of opportunities to get outside and learn while in the sunshine!
  3. The professors are readily available for help if you need it. We have small class sizes, and every class has their own WhatsApp group with the professor. This means that if you have a question on the assignment or the next field trip, you can just send a quick text to find out!
  4. Our field trips provide a great chance to pick your professors' brain on a variety of topics. During our trips, we’ve had discussions ranging from Ecuadorian culture to career advice, to thoughts on the roles of NGOs in the Galápagos. In other words, if you have a question, ask it! The professors are more than happy to share their knowledge, even if it is outside of the class subject.  
  5. Every professor has been so, so kind! One small example: when one professor learned that a few of us were planning on traveling to Ecuador after our semester, he made an entire Google map of places to go and things to see! He included restaurants, cultural sites, the best places to go birding, and more.

In summary, I’ve got a load of reasons why I love my classes. While at times it can be stressful to balance schoolwork and being in a new country, I’ve been so grateful for the chance to study here. Whenever I get a little overwhelmed by an assignment, I just remember that it’s a fairly normal part of school. I’d rather be stressed about school while living in the Galápagos than stressed about school back home! And to be completely honest, the stressful moments have been few and far between. I ten-out-of-ten would recommend taking classes here.

Catherine Putzier

<p>Hello everyone! My name is Catherine Putzier and I’m a senior at the University of St. Thomas (Minnesota), where I am studying Environmental Science with a concentration in Biology. While on my home turf, you can find me rock climbing at a local crag, playing a game of pickup soccer, or gushing about my three adorable nephews and one adorable niece. I love a good adventure and can’t wait to share about the Galapagos semester program!</p>

Home university:
University of St. Thomas (MN)
Hometown:
St. Paul, MN
Major:
Environmental Studies
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