This blog has been created to share the College of Staten Island (CSI) students’ experiences around the world. Dolphins across the Seven Seas provides the opportunity for CSI students, staff, faculty and beyond to gain insight into the study abroad experience. Additionally, Study Abroad Peer Advisors provide reflections upon their experiences as well as advice to potential study abroad participants. CSI is the single senior college of the City University of New York (CUNY), located in the borough of Staten Island.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Nothing Short of Exceptional ~Vahid Sula, Galapagos Islands and Quito, Ecuador

During the winter intersession of 2013, I traveled to the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador. A group of fellow CSI Macaulay students, myself, and other Macaulay students from CUNY’s other campuses enjoyed three weeks in Ecuador. It was an adventure I won’t soon forget. The places we visited, the friendships we forged, and the memories we created will stay with me long after I graduate from the College of Staten Island.

My original decision to travel to the Galapagos was based on my interest in Biology. Having just enrolled in a semester of BIO 170 with Professor Mitra, I was hooked on the concepts and theories behind the study of life. Traveling to the Galapagos Islands seemed like the perfect fit. Adventuring on the Islands where Darwin, himself, once stood suddenly became an opportunity I could not pass up. After a few weeks of paperwork, I was packing my bags for Ecuador. As much as I attempted to inform myself of all the precautions I would have to take, my thoughts were just too distracting. Just the multitude of ideas filled my head. There were some nights I just couldn’t sleep because of the anticipation.  I would dream of eventually waking up one day and standing on the equator, snorkeling with sharks ten feet below me and tanning on beaches with sea lions at play next to me. Yet, no thoughts can capture the intensity of the moment when it is truly happening right in front of you.
 

I could just go on YouTube and watch a video of sea lions, finches, or turtles. I could just search Google for images of each and every one of the islands within the Galapagos. Yet, the best part of studying abroad is that none of that compares. The best camera or the highest quality image can’t capture the moment like you can if you’re living it. Among the best moments of the entire trip happened early on. Waking up early one morning, we traveled to Frigate bird Hill.

“Hill” was truly an understatement; this was an extensive hike and as we increased our elevation, our sights decreased with mists filling in and blocking every detail. At best, most of us could only see thirty or forty feet ahead. As our sights lessened, everything became only more intense as Frigate birds would come in swooping down and past us. As we trekked through a blinding mist and muddy paths (of which nearly everyone on the trip slipped and fell into), the best moment came when we ventured into a short passage.

We had reached one of the higher regions of the “hill” and our professor guided our sights to what looked like a small cave. Thick moss and vines scattered around the entrance created this sense that this was no longer my reality. I thought I had ventured into a prehistoric period as we trudged into the cave, ducking, and swooping to dodge the viscous water droplets (which were icy cold) and ingrown roots that made the cave passage more of a physical and visual splendor. I felt like a kid again, letting my imagination run free and flourishing just as the environment around me was doing. The best part was that this was just the beginning.
 

Whether I look back and think about playing on the beaches of San Cristobal with sea lions (sometimes more than with my friends), snorkeling at Kicker Rock effortlessly as the current pushed my through the rocks giving me ample opportunity to take in the sights underneath me as hammerhead sharks and sting rays swarmed around, diving ten or fifteen feet below to spot ray-finned sharks sleeping beneath coral and giving a dear friend a handshake all underwater, going out at nights to enjoy meals with old friends and making new ones, or just taking a photo with a live chicken at the local airport bay before we took flight, all these moments and countless others have come to now define me. My study abroad experience was nothing short of exceptional. Now all I can do is count the days until my next adventure.