Students go on adventure to the equator

Biology Professor, Dr. Steve Mauro, imitates a giant tortoise in the GalapagosBiology professor Dr. Steve Mauro imitates a giant tortoise in the Galapagos.

This summer, from June 7 to June 18, a few lucky Mercyhurst College students went on the adventure of a lifetime as they participated in one of the Faculty-Led Study Abroad Programs (FSATs), traveling all over the South American country of Ecuador, as well as exploring the Galapagos Islands.

Before the trip, students participated in either a biodiversity course led by biology professor Steve Mauro or a psychology course led by the chair of the psychology department, professor Robert Hoff, both of which counted for core requirements.

Mauro, Hoff and professor Ruth Auld, director of graduate special education, accompanied the students to Ecuador. Over the course of the trip, students visited many places, including Quito, the capital of Ecuador; Riobamba, a city in the highlands of that country with a largely indigenous population; Cotopaxi, Ecuador’s highest active volcano; and many of the Galapagos Islands.

Many students said that one of the highlights of the trip was the sense of adventure involved. “I really enjoyed how the trip wasn’t all tours. We got to learn the history of the Galapagos while going on snorkeling and hiking adventures,” senior Adam Olszewski said.

Students had the opportunity to snorkel among the rich sea life of the Galapagos, seeing firsthand many species of fish not present in other parts of the world. Students also hiked on millennia-old volcanic rock and saw giant tortoises mating.

Another highlight of the trip that students mentioned was the time they got to spend getting to know the culture of a town called Riobamba.

“The locals were not just willing but excited to share their culture with us, hoping that we would treasure [Riobamba’s] beauty as they do. And indeed we did,” junior Eve Klajbor said.

While visiting a local school students had the opportunity to exchange words with children in English and in Quichua, the traditional language of the town.

While at the school students got to ride donkeys, which is the most common method of transportation in the highlands, and eat traditional foods prepared by the elders of the town. Students also witnessed how the locals made their clothes, from the sheering of sheep to the spinning of wool to make the thread they use to wear the traditional garment, ponchos.

Students agree that the trip was truly one of a lifetime, filled with experiences that have enriched the lives of everybody lucky enough to be a part of the adventure.

“The memories from this trip are ones of friendship, adventure and excitement, and ones that I won’t soon forget,” Klajbor said.

At a handicraft market in Quito: Juniors Jen Stevens and Eve Klajbor, sophomores Gillian Jones, and Rachel BrownAt a handicraft market in Quito: juniors Jen Stevens and Eve Klajbor, sophomores Gillian Jones, and Rachel Brown.

Junior Amber Kissman riding a donkey in RiobambaJunior Amber Kissman rides a donkey in Riobamba.

View from the travelers' hotel in Quito, EcuadorStudents had a great view from the travelers’ hotel in Quito, Ecuador.

Junior John Veltre, '09 alumni Kaitlyn Hoover, senior Kyle Plante, junior Eve Klajbor headed to the Galapagos islandsJunior John Veltre, alumna Kaitlyn Hoover, senior Kyle Plante and junior Eve Klajbor head to the Galapagos Islands.