It was my last year of college and I finally had the opportunity to study abroad. When I thought about where I wanted to go the first place that came to mind was the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador. As a geographer I was fascinated with evolutionary biology and I had always wanted to visit the birthplace of Darwin’s theory. So I googled “study abroad Galapagos” and low-and-behold, I found the Isabela Oceanographic Institute. It was a new school at the time, hosting professors and students from the United States and Ecuador.
It is the only study abroad program in the Galapagos but I’m pretty sure it’s also the best in the world. There were only a handful of students and some great professors. We all stayed in the same big house (an old mission) and our classroom was in the dining room (when we weren’t outside doing field work, that is). We had so much fun over that summer and became very good friends.
The classes I took were Evolutionary Biology and Fish of the Galapagos (a sort of ichthyology and fish identification course). In the mornings we would have a traditional lecture-type class and in the afternoons we would have field classes. The ichthyology class required us to snorkel or dive almost everyday (rough, I know…).
Observing the unique wildlife of the Galapagos was simply amazing. I felt like I was on the Discovery Channel everyday. I still dream about the marine iguanas and penguins and sea lions that I snorkeled with.
While I was there, I surfed almost everyday. I stood at the edge of the second largest volcanic crater in the world and then watched one spontaneously erupt just a couple of weeks later.
Studying abroad in the Galapagos was by far one of the best experiences of my life. I always call it my pilgrimage. I learned about one of my favorite subjects in the place that played a key role in its development. I surfed some spots that were a little too advanced for me. I drank a little too many cuba libres and pilsners and ate a little too many patacones. I fell in love with Isabela island and all of its inhabitants. I think about them all the time and I know that I have to go back one day.
I will definitely be writing more about my experiences there.
Until then, here’s a local celebrity (no longer with us) singing a local favorite that I grew to love out there: