Environmental exploration in Ecuador


Students explore the diverse ecology of Ecuador. Photo courtesy of Oakland University News.

This past December, Oakland University students were given an opportunity to embark on a study abroad trip to Ecuador to experience the natural beauty of the country firsthand.

The trip allowed students to make direct contact with the diverse ecology of the South American country and learn about the complexities of the environment over a 10-day period. 

The thing I was most excited about was learning about a different culture and getting to know Ecuador as much as possible,” psychology major Osvaldo Gonzalez Osorio said. “It was also a way for me to get out of my comfort zone and experience new things which I would probably have not experienced any other way.”

Many students, such as environmental science major Andrea Benchley, were also excited to experience a climate which is so different to the Michigan ecosystem.

Before leaving on the trip, I was looking forward to being in a completely new environment,” Benchley said. “Living in Michigan, I’ve grown accustomed to the deciduous forests and oak savanna environment, so I was ready to have my mind blown being in the Amazon for the first time.”

Environmental science major Emily Grondin had her sights set on the different types of creatures which are native to Ecuador. 

“I was really looking forward to seeing numerous species,” Grondin said. “I was eager to see some monkeys in the Amazon and the blue-footed booby at ‘Poor-Man’s’ Galapagos.”

The trip also provided experiential learning that is simply not offered in a classroom setting. 

It is so unique and different from a classroom setting, because not only are you learning about the topic, but you are also then seeing it in person and experiencing what you are learning,” Gonzalez Osorio said. “If one day we learned about cloud forests, the next day we would actually visit one and experience and understand what we had learned previously.”

The study abroad program also helped students contextualize the future careers their chosen educational path can lead to.  

“Personally, studying abroad helped motivate my interests. Before this trip, I wasn’t sure what I was doing with an environmental science major, and I struggled with making a connection of how college was going to get me to my future career,” Grondin said. “However, studying abroad gave me the hands-on experience that you don’t always get in a classroom setting, which more accurately displayed what my future career could look like.”

Not only were students provided an opportunity to learn about their field — they also experienced a once in a lifetime trip where they were able to connect with like-minded peers.

“Every student had their own research topics to discuss, and we were all learning from one another,” Benchley said. “That is probably the best skill that we all acquired — [which] was to become each other’s teachers.”

Gonzalez Osorio believes that, if given the chance, students should take advantage of the many study abroad programs OU has to offer.

“I would definitely recommend the trip to anyone at OU — even if your major is not related to the subject of the course, as you will get a lot out of it,” he said. “This was really out of my comfort zone, and although I was skeptical at first, it really changes your life. The memories and the relationships you make are so unique that they become unforgettable.”

To learn more about OU’s study abroad opportunities, visit oakland.edu/ie/studyabroad.