Environmental Studies in Ecuador

Wow. So here I am in Ecuador, finally studying abroad for the summer! After all the forms, meetings, calls, emails, and general stress (and excitement) my courses have started! Travelling in a country where you don’t speak the language at all (and I truly mean at all) is scary, but studying in that same country can be downright terrifying at first. However, I knew what to expect heading into it and I am proud to say that even two and a half weeks in I have learned so much Spanish! While it is confusing at times since a lot of words have two separate meanings, I absolutely love it.

My program is rather unique, for two reasons – the first being field trips. Half of my classes take place by visiting various parts of Ecuador and exploring the biodiversity, mechanisms, and issues of the surrounding nature. On our first trip, we traveled to Cotopaxi which is the world’s highest active volcano. My classmates and I got to see a massive boulder that had been transported almost 13 miles away from its original placement near the volcano’s summit. We then traveled up Cotopaxi in a bus and periodically stopped at different altitudes to observe the types of fauna and how huge a difference just a couple hundred feet could make in the diversity of plants. Finally, we hiked about 1,000 feet to a refuge that was up at 16,000 feet! It was truly our first time really bonding as a group and really set the tone for our following adventures to come.

Just two short days after returning to Quito, my classmates and I left for a research station, Tiputini Biodiversity Station, for five days. IT WAS NUTS. I don’t think I can accurately describe the rainforest to you in words, nor can I capture its beauty in photographs. On our various hikes, we learned about all sorts of insects and plants that had medicinal purposes, as well as eating ants that tasted like lemons, smelling millipedes that released an almond scent, and cutting our hair with plant stems! We set up traps to catch bats and process them for our professor’s research. We swam in the Tiputini river with all sorts of creatures right beneath us. I fell asleep to the echoing sounds of the forest and felt rain beat down on my skin in a massive tree 160 feet above the lively ground. Inches from my fingertips, I witnessed the world’s smallest species of monkey dart past me. I returned from the rainforest with this new-found love and a new-found passion for the preservation of our stunning and tranquil planet. As with a lot of things in life we wish to understand, we must first immerse ourselves and then find appreciation within.

The second ridiculously amazing, unique part about my program is that it is split in two. Half of our time is spent in Quito, the capital of Ecuador, and the other half is spent in the Galapagos Islands! How unreal is that? We arrive in the Galapagos in early July and have three weeks there to learn, live, and laugh. I am so excited. This program is truly amazing.

Before heading out, I have a week filled with presentations, papers, and exams. Which makes sense because I should do some school work at some point, right?

Studying abroad is an experience that I think everyone should have and think that it is essential in the growth and development as a student and as a person. I have met some of the coolest people ever, and we come from all walks of life. I am so grateful for this opportunity and hope that I can convince others to study abroad too. Hasta la prόxima!

Jeremiah Ort
University of Tulsa ‘19
Chemical Engineering
Ecuador | Summer 2017