My first class for IES Abroad is called Techniques for Marine Research I and we’re taking classes summer school-style where it’s just one class for three weeks every day and then we move on to the next class. In my experience, when I hear that a class is called "Techniques of Marine Research," I would just assume that it's to discuss how research is conducted, read a lot of papers about marine research, and then maybe take a field trip where we go to a water source and put a little of what we learned into action…maybe. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that our second through sixth classes were going to be field trips to the beach where we switched off from studying sea turtles and microplastic pollution, and on day seven we were going scuba diving to two separate sites, one being a shipwreck. Woah.
I’ve gotten very used to falling asleep in lectures and this was a huge change in the best way.
So, I went on my first dive that wasn’t in a murky lake in Texas and I can see why my parents are afraid of me dropping out and becoming a diving bum (no shame to those that did, you’re living the dream). As we descended, the sea lions freely danced around us trying to get us bulky divers to play. Given that this was my first real dive I was really focused in the beginning about going through all my checklists and making sure that I was breathing but not so excessively that I was wasting oxygen. When something grabbed my arm, I honestly thought I was done for: Maybe a sea lion bit me or an octopus grabbed me—I wasn’t sure. Thankfully, it was the instructor turning me around just in time to watch a sea turtle nonchalantly float a few feet in front of my face. In that moment I forgot that the water was sixteen degrees Celsius because we’re diving in winter, but the slightly numb hands and toes were for sure worth it for views like that.
Living here has had a lot of pleasant surprises like the sea turtle encounter. Every time I find myself squinting and wishing I had sunglasses on a bright day, a quick afternoon (or morning or night or anytime!) mist comes through to ease my eyes. In the United States, we’ve normalized having pigeons, squirrels, and maybe even raccoons running around everywhere pretending like they own the city, but here we have sea lions! They sleep in the middle of the street, sunbathe on the beach all day, and swim next to you in the water. Another thing I noticed is that no one has to lock their bikes here. I’ve gotten used to being paranoid with a cable and a U-lock praying that my bike doesn’t get stolen from campus, but on this sleepy island there are no such worries. Though it’s only been two weeks I can tell time is going to fly by like no other here. We’ve already done so much in this time I can’t wait for what’s next!
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<p>Hello! My name is Rachel Seyler and I'm going into my junior year and I am studying ecology and evolutionary biology & environmental studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder. I'm studying abroad in Quito and the Galapagos Islands via direct enrollment during fall 2021. During my free time I enjoy snowboarding, hanging out with friends, and hiking. During my time abroad I'm very excited to expand my Spanish skills, learn about the local culture, and explore in depth the unique flora and fauna that the Galapagos and rainforest entails.</p>