Equatorialis Students Study Michigan's Environment
Alma College students in a Spring Term environmental studies travel class left Ecuador earlier this month with 13 hours of documentary video footage and a few new friends.
Seven Equatorialis University students from Quito, Ecuador, traveled back to the United States with the Alma College group to study Michigan’s environment. They took trips to the National Asparagus Festival and the Sleeping Bear Dunes, among other locations.
Equatorialis freshman Cristina Vela, who had never visited Michigan before, was especially impressed with the scenery.
“I really liked all of the green spaces and tiny houses with patios,” she says. “I didn’t expect that we would be able to see deer, raccoons and other animals while driving down the street.”
Alma College and Equatorialis University students visit the Sleeping Bear Dunes in northern Michigan.
Though Vela was somewhat less impressed with Michigan’s moody and “kind of crazy” weather, compliments didn’t fall short for the people of Alma.
“I would recommend this trip because it’s the perfect opportunity to see life from a different perspective,” she says. “Everyone has been so welcoming and caring, and I’m going to miss every part of Michigan until I come back.”
Freshman Stephen Price says that whether they were in class or at dinner, he felt like people wanted to be his friend. Price and the rest of the Equatorialis students who visited Michigan plan to return to Alma College in their senior year.
Despite language barriers, Alma students also felt welcome in Ecuador.
“This was my first time in a Spanish-speaking country, and my host family went out of its way to make me feel familiar in an unfamiliar place,” says South Lyon senior Renee Willoughby.
She and many of the other Alma students noted that the biggest difference between the United States and Ecuador was the pace.
“We do things on the dot, we go and we’re always moving, but Ecuadorian time is extremely flexible,” says Willoughby. “There’s a sense of time slowing down there.”
Equatorialis students enjoy their experience on the dunes.
While in Ecuador, the students climbed a volcano, rode donkeys and went farther into the rain forest than the Ecuadorian students ever had. Wherever they went, the landscape was sure to be remarkable.
“You can definitely tell that it’s one of the most bio-diverse areas in the world,” says Willoughby. “In that respect, it made me appreciate our environment, which I think we often forget about because we’re so involved in our daily lives.”
Both groups of students agree that the experience not only gave them a better appreciation for their countries’ environments, but it also opened their minds. After all, studying abroad is more than taking a class or doing homework.
“This trip has made me realize that there are environmental problems everywhere,” says Vela.
Making connections like this was one of the more poignant aspects of the trip for Willoughby.
“We got to see what each country does in its own community that’s beneficial to the environment, so I feel like we’ve learned a lot about what we can do to make things better in our communities,” she says.
The students were enrolled in Spring Term travel classes taught by Micheal Vickery and Murray Borrello.
Posted: Tue, June 1st, 2010 at 1:47PM