The month of December in the Galápagos flew by in the blink of an eye! Classes wrapped up smoothly with the final module in Geographic Information Systems. I also counted down the remaining sunsets over Playa Mann and got my fill of sea lions before I left. Upon returning to the Ecuadorian mainland, three friends and I stayed over the program a week to go travel southward to Parque Nacional Cotopaxi, Latacunga, and Baños. Everyone we talked to insisted on making it down to Baños, and they really meant it! We biked through the mountains and saw about a dozen waterfalls along the way, rafted down the Rio Pastaza, and chilled in the thermal pools for our final day. I could not have asked for a better way to wrap up my study abroad experience. We said our goodbyes, and of course made plans to meet back up this coming summer.
I was greeted by a chilly Texan cold front when I stepped outside of the airport in Austin. These 30º temperatures in Texas terrified me because of the ungodly winter temperatures waiting for me up in Ithaca, New York in January. This was the first awakening upon arriving back in the States. I spent the afternoon showing my family the thousands of pictures and rehashing stories from my time abroad.
Being back in the States is bittersweet in many ways. It is fantastic to spend time and catch up with family and friends after being away for so long this year. On the other hand, it feels strange to suddenly be apart from friends and a community that I grew so close to over the past three months. Nonetheless, our study abroad group has been able to stay in touch so far and I think that many of us will plan to get together in the future. I am extremely grateful for these relationships that were made.
When I think back to everything that happened during our time in Ecuador and the Galápagos, I would not have wanted anything different in the experience as a whole. We were able to experience such a remarkable ecosystem that is the Galápagos Islands. I learned about the implications that the islands have on a biological, social, and political level. Furthermore, I gained local perceptions of people who will ultimately be influenced most by the future of these islands, which is an aspect often overlooked by what we may learn in a conventional classroom. This is something that I don’t think can be effectively communicated outside of the Galápagos, where all of these issues are taking place. This study abroad experience was a fundamental part of my college education that I will forever be thankful for!
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<div>Hi there all! My name Julian Garcia and I was proudly born and raised in San Antonio, Texas. I am in my senior year at Cornell University studying International Agriculture and Rural Development with interests in sustainable cropping systems and economic development. In my free time, you can find me hiking in the Adirondacks, spelunking 100 feet underground in a cave, trying to cook up something tasty, or reading a Hemingway novel. I hope you enjoy the blog!</div>