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    Posted March 17, 2014 by
    Miami, Florida
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Why study abroad? Ask Michelle Obama

    Islas Encantadas

    My study abroad experience was the best three months of my life. I was able to become a part of the small community of a little more than 2000 people in a way that is not attainable anywhere else. My host family truly integrated me into their lives and daily routines as I became acquainted with my extended family, which stretched into all niches of the community. My (host) mom and I spent afternoons sharing stories and having discussions about politics, the world, and life, both bringing vastly different experiences and concepts to the table. Every day was a new adventure, whether I discovered a new place, saw an animal I had not yet seen, or got to know someone for the first time. The classes in UGalapagos (my program in the University of Miami) are almost all science courses, and mainly based on field learning and hands-on activities. I was able to witness plant biodiversity at different altitude zones as we biked down a volcano. I spent hours on the beaches observing the thermoregulatory behavior of marine iguanas. I even had the opportunity to talk with individuals in all positions of the community about conservation and tourism, as they see at, as residents of one of the most renowned world heritage sites. I feel as though studying abroad has expanded my scope on the world stretched my ideas of the world, and allowed me to see from new angles. I can better think about problems in new ways and see some of the more conspicuous effects of certain actions. I witnessed the entirely different way in which to run companies, hospitals, and the government. It was fascinating to see the view and role of conservation among locals of such a valuable World Heritage site: how they see their roles and how they get to experience the enchanted islands in which they live. Additionally, I have become far more skilled in Spanish, and while I do not yet call myself fluent, I can easily get by in any situation (perhaps with some botched pluperfect tenses along the way). I learned to live in the present; the attitude on Isabela (my island) is that of ease and content. No one worries about the future, and hardly anyone even thinks of it much. Although I found it impossible to entirely adopt this carefree ideal, I am definitely more aware of being present in the moment. I feel like now I better appreciate each day, as what it is.

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