For those of you who would like to know what my life is like instead of just looking at nature photos, this post is for you!
I had IES orientation Friday, USFQ orientation Monday, and GAIAS orientation Tuesday. IES is my study abroad program whose website you’re on now. USFQ stands for Universidad San Francisco de Quito, the school where I’m enrolled. USFQ has a gorgeous Spainsh-architecture campus and is the only private, liberal arts university in Ecuador. GAIAS stands for Galapagos Academic Institute for the Arts and Sciences, and it’s the USFQ campus on the Galapagos Islands where I’ll be studying and living for three months starting in September. Today was my first day of class!
At orientation we watched presentations about culture shock, safety, health, field trips, support staff, campus tours, schedules, phones, language, host families, communication with home, racial and sexual diversity, etc. etc. etc. One rather startling presentation from a U.S. Embassy guy taught us the crime level here is “CRITICAL” and everyone’s out to rape, rob, stab, and/or shoot you. Apparently it’s a bit alarmist, but good info nevertheless.
Another presentation about our field trip to Tiputini Biodiversity Preserve had my heart pounding. As part of my tropical ecology class, we spend a week in Yasuni National Park, a.k.a. The Amazon. You get there by plane, open-air bus, motorized canoe, regular canoe, and finally hiking. Wow. Students have seen jaguars! We get to swim in the Amazon with piranhas, walk in the canopy, and see the greatest diversity of birds, butterflies, and orchids in the world. (Dad, forget you read that first part.)
Both the University and my house are in a safe, well-off suburb called Cumbayá. I live one mile from campus and walk home past a lovely reservoir. Both my host parents work at the school, and my host brother Juan Javier attends law school there as well. When Juan picked me up from the airport with his girlfriend Victoria and her cousin in the car, I felt exactly like I was home. We sang along to Macklemore on the radio and chattered in both English and Spanish. My host parents are patient, engaging, and welcoming. We’ve driven through Quito several times and they always give me tours and keep me safe. We watch TV and Netflix every night til midnight. Meals are quite different here: both breakfast and dinner consist of milk and bread. Lunch is the main meal of rice, meat, and vegetables. Fresh fruit is available all the time, in more varieties than you can imagine, and my host dad’s fresh juices are superb!
I did not bring enough nice shirts or pants. I have one pair of jeans for the whole month. Contrary to the guide book, girls do not wear shorts, skirts, or dresses unless they want to get cat-called incessantly.
They say that Ecuador has no seasons, but in Quito you can experience all four seasons in one day. No rain yet, temperatures around 60 to 70 degrees.
On Friday I’m taking an 8-mile hike that BEGINS at 14,107 feet. Holy cow. Stay tuned.
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<p><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">Nina Finley is a sophomore at The Ohio State University. She ventured to the Midwest from her hometown of Seattle, Washington to major in Animal Sciences and Evolution & Ecology. She would like to become a livestock vet or marine biologist. When she’s not studying, Nina loves to play ultimate frisbee, watch birds and raise meat rabbits. She’s passionate about agriculture, nature and Spanish, all of which she hopes to explore in Ecuador. Join the journey as Nina traces Darwin’s path and explores the natural wonders of the Galapagos Islands!</span></p>