By Jordan Beach

Dr. Katrina Smith took her first study abroad trip with Reinhardt University in 2014 to Ecuador, and after that experience, she knew she had to return.

“I knew that when it was time to lead my own trip, it would be the perfect place to share with students,” said Smith, who led the 2019 trip to Ecuador and the Galápagos Islands. “Where else on Earth could I have both the best of flora and fauna and to share in a cultural experience with indigenous people of the Andes Mountains? It was the absolute best of land and sea.”

Smith was joined by Dr. Cheryl Brown, Dr. Danielle Satre, Elizabeth Smith, Dr. Jennifer Summey, trustee Ellen McElyea and her husband Bobby Dyer, and 16 Reinhardt students and alumni on the May 16-27 trip. Students traveling are enrolled in Environmental Psychology, Diverse People of Ecuador, Spanish for Travelers and Flora & Fauna of the Galápagos.

While on the mainland of Ecuador, the group explored Quito, Ecuador’s capital city, the Mindo Cloud Forest and various areas of the Andes Mountains, including Cotopaxi, Riobamba and the village of Palacio Real. They also traveled to Santa Cruz, Isabella and San Cristóbal islands.

“We had so many amazing adventures. Our group was able to swim with sea lions, see the Galápagos tortoises and experience the incredible diversity of plant and animal life found in the Galápagos Islands,” said Smith. “We also traveled into the Andes Mountains of Ecuador where we were able to spend a few days visiting with the community members of Palacio Real.”

The experience also included learning about traditions of the indigenous Quechua people, where they shared a meal of llama and quinoa and played soccer with the community’s children.

Michelle Bonin ‘18, who attended the Mexico and Cuba study abroad trips, planned to take this trip even after graduating. While learning about various ecosystems and the life that exists in different countries, Bonin believes students gain more understanding of the people who live in the places they study.

“One of the things I think students realize is that not everyone has it easy. Not everyone has clean water to drink. There are so many things that we, United States citizens, take for granted.”

In 2020, Reinhardt plans to visit Japan as part of the study abroad program. Follow the link for more information.

Pictures provided by Dr. Cheryl Brown, Dr. Katrina Smith, Elizabeth Smith, Michelle Bonin, Savanna Davis and Jonathan Carpenter.