Honors College study abroad trip teaches students about the culture, geology and marine science of Ecuador

WWU’s Honors College is exploring the slopes of volcanos, the depths of the waters around the Galápagos and everything in between during a study abroad program this summer to Ecuador. The course focus is split between two main areas: a humanities-focused look at the culture, history, and literature of Ecuador led by Professor of Modern and Classical Languages Amy Carbajal, and a geology focus led by Honors College Director and Professor of Geology Scott Linneman. Professor of Biology Deb Donovan will lead a marine science component once the expedition reaches the Galápagos Islands. Included on the trip are 21 students, four faculty members and two staff members.

After a 20-hour travel day that saw the group leave from in front of Western's Performing Arts Center at 2 a.m. and connect through Seattle and Atlanta to the capital of Quito, day one of the course included travel by bus to the Teleférico - a gondola lift to the top of Pichincha, the volcanic peak that overlooks Quito.

Quito is the second highest capital in the world at over 9,000 feet, and Pichincha crests at more than 13,000 feet above sea level - the highest that many in the group had have ever been. Arriving in Quito was also for many participants the first time they had ever crossed into the Southern Hemisphere, as Quito sits just below the equator.

Students enjoyed an afternoon salsa dance class before dinner.

On day two, the group traveled north to Otavalo for tours of a rose plantation (one of Ecuador’s biggest exports), a hike to see an active Andean volcano, and a discussion with one of the authors of one of the books students were required to read for the course.

Claire Hutchings, an Environmental Science student from Bothell who will be a senior this fall, said she was just happy to be in Ecuador, as the two weeks leading up to the departure saw her get a case of COVID and see the trip almost cancelled because of strikes and civil unrest in the country.

“I am so happy we made it,” she said. “I view this trip as an incredible opportunity, not just to see and experience another culture but to really bond with my honors cohort. COVID really hindered that, so this is a great chance to spend that time with some incredible people.”

See a gallery of photos from the trip updated daily here.

Scott Linneman holds up a map as he talks to students about the geological forces that formed the Andes.
A student sits on the Swing in the Clouds, looking over Quito, Ecuador.