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Bienvenidos al Ecuador

Hola amigos.

I am writing you from the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador. I am here in the archipelago until May for my study abroad semester.

Through Juniata, I am taking courses in a marine based track in the Galápagos Academic Institute for the Arts and Sciences (GAIAS) program with Universidad San Francisco de Quito (USFQ). I spent my first month living with a family in Quito. During that time, I completed a week-long Spanish intensive course and my first module, which included a 7-day trip to the coast of Ecuador. I also took advantage of being on the mainland and traveled during my free time.

Through Juniata, I am taking courses in a marine based track in the Galápagos Academic Institute for the Arts and Sciences (GAIAS) program with Universidad San Francisco de Quito (USFQ). I spent my first month living with a family in Quito. During that time, I completed a week-long Spanish intensive course and my first module, which included a 7-day trip to the coast of Ecuador. I also took advantage of being on the mainland and traveled during my free time.

In the beginning of February, I finally traveled to the Galapagos. The university has a remote campus on San Cristobal, where I live now with another host family. I will spend all my time on the islands until May 5th taking classes!

I have a personal blog too if you want to see more pictures and details of my semester: 
https://environmentalpassion.wordpress.com/

I would like to thank the Juniata College study abroad office for helping me prepare. Ever since I was in high school visiting Juniata, I have wanted to go to the Galapagos. And here I am. Living my dream.

Everyday life is here pretty simple. I usually bike or walk to the university for class in the morning with my friend who lives in my neighborhood. Some students are lucky and live close, but I live on the exact opposite side of town from the university. At least it’s a beautiful place to walk around! During my walk to class, I see sea lions, marine iguanas, lizards, and birds.

The university is right across from one of the most accessible beaches, Playa Mann. It is nice because after class you can sit on the beach and sometimes the WiFi can reach out there. There is a nice space for students to do homework and enjoy the view on a balcony. My classes are typically 9am to 12pm every day. These are a mix of lecture, discussions, and field excursions. Somedays our field excursions are all day, which include snorkeling, hiking, or scuba diving in various locations around the island.

During my free time, I fulfilled my goal to become PADI Open Water scuba certified. In addition, I volunteered in the afternoons for 3-weeks at a summer camp for local children. I got to practice my Spanish with them and they got to practice English. I feel more connected to the local community after working with them. They are very intelligent about where they live and environmentally cautious. It was a pleasure to dedicate time to them. They taught me a lot and I understand the culture here more.

Overall, I am really enjoying meeting new people, having new experiences, and making memories. The Galapagos is a special place with unbelievable sights to offer. I really like being integrated into the community and being able to be less of a tourist. Although the wildlife and environment are amazing, there definitely are some issues in the islands that cannot be witnessed from a boat tour with a paid guide. Being able to experience island life has helped me see this place in an interdisciplinary perspective. It has been life changing and I cannot wait to keep learning more.


Stephanie Letourneau ’20 , Environmental Science POE, Dimpled, outdoor loving, MD girl, pursuing passions