The End (of the trip) VT Ecuador 2018

The End

Our trip is coming to a close. Our final stop was Papallacta, elevation: 10,600 feet. Many of us were thankful the highest elevation was the end, and even though hot springs waited for us just outside our room doors, many of us were feeling the hiking and travel wear us down. The hikes here were also the most strenuous; although all of us would have been able to do the same type of climb had we been in Blacksburg, starting at 10,600 feet made catching our breath that much more difficult. Still, after standing at what felt like the top of the world (roughly 13,000 feet looking over the valley without hotel), made the climb oh so worth it.

On reflection, the trip both flew and dragged by. But doesn’t it always? Nineteen days abroad sounds like a long time, but split between three different locations and with six days of travel made the time spent at every location precious. The time spent at Shiripuno Lodge taught us all patience and how to enjoy our surroundings while still keeping a sharp look out for pitfalls or snakes. The time at San Isidro gave me a new appreciation for the horizon, clouds, and mountains. The time spent at Papallacta gave me a new appreciation for my healthy lungs, but also gave me the shove I needed to make sure I’m physically ready for my next big adventure.

I graduate this summer once our final paper is turned in, and in a way this trip was a way for me to mark the end of my undergraduate career and beginning of my next big adventure. Everyone I’ve talked with about study abroad always says it’s a trip they’ll treasure forever; I finally understand where they’re coming from. This trip isn’t something I’ll forget soon, and I hope everyone else on the trip feels the same exhausted but happy and content way I do.

– Catherine Hucul, Biological Sciences