Gamecocks in the Galapagos
By Allen Wallace, firstname.lastname@example.org, 803-777-5667
The Galápagos Islands have stirred the imagination of the Western world since they were discovered quite by accident in 1535. Herman Melville wrote about them. Charles Darwin visited to study the wide variety of animals found only there. Now, University of South Carolina students can visit and learn some of the many lessons the land has to offer, thanks to a Maymester study abroad program which includes four cross-disciplinary courses.
The inaugural Global USC in the Galápagos: Sustainability took place in Maymester 2017, and included courses from the College of Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management (HRSM), the College of Arts and Sciences, and the College of Information and Communications. The program originated through HRSM and UofSC’s study abroad office in partnership with the Universidad San Francisco de Quito in Ecuador.
Now in its second year, the 2018 Maymester program will add a focus on the scuba industry to the sustainability and eco-tourism class. Other courses will again focus on marine science, history and photography.
The unifying theme in the classes in the program is sustainability: examining the best ways to make places like the Galápagos accessible to visitors while still preserving their beauty, population, culture and ecosystem.
Learning the importance of sustainable tourism has really stuck with me … being conscious of the lives of the locals and not viewing the islands as a giant resort affected the decisions I made while abroad and will affect my behavior wherever I travel from now on.
Tyler Lynch, UofSC student
David Cárdenas is a native of Ecuador (the Galápagos are part of that country) and associate dean of academics for the College of Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management. He taught the May 2017 class on sustainability and eco-tourism and was excited to share his home country with his students.
"I think the experience did a really good job because the students got to see three different perspectives of sustainability and how they compete against each other,” Cárdenas said.
He showed the students the conflicting interests of business owners who want more tourism, national park officials who would prefer fewer visitors so they can preserve the land, and the people who live there, who, as he put it, “want to preserve the area, but need jobs.”
History professor Gabrielle Kuenzli, a scholar of modern Latin American history, teaches the Global USC in the Galápagos Latin American history course and strongly believes in the value of studying abroad.
“As a student, I started taking Spanish classes, went to South America and never looked back,” Kuenzli says. “The types of questions I asked about Bolivia when I was a student, I’m still exploring today. I am a product of the power of studying abroad.”
Kuenzli’s Galápagos course looks at Darwin in historical context of the collapse of colonialism and the rise of the eugenics movement around the world. Students also explore Ecuador and the Galapagos’ fragmented past by talking to locals, visiting sites and looking at society and culture from an interdisciplinary perspective.
“Nobody talks about the history of the people, but throughout this experience the students began to think about the Galápagos as an island that has a past and many types of historical protagonists who engaged and shaped the development and politics of Ecuador and of Latin America,” Kuenzli says. “We put history back on the table.”
Students participating in the Global USC in the Galápagos: Sustainability Maymester have a chance to learn about the culture of Ecuador and the islands firsthand while living with local families on San Cristobal Island. Cárdenas says the 2017 group chose to spend time with their host families even on free days.
"The way I know the trip was a success is that when the students left the host families they all were crying,” Cárdenas says. "You know it had a pretty positive impact on them."
Tyler Lynch, a senior environmental science major, says the Galápagos study abroad experience will influence his future actions.
“Learning the importance of sustainable tourism has really stuck with me,” he says. “Being conscious of the lives of the locals and not viewing the islands as a giant resort affected the decisions I made while abroad and will affect my behavior wherever I travel from now on. This stretches from limiting my consumption of resources like water to supporting local shops and restaurants and foregoing the large chain restaurants or souvenir shops to support the local economy.”
The 2018 Global USC in the Galápagos: Sustainability Maymester is scheduled for May 13-June 2. Information sessions will be offered in the study abroad office resource library (Close-Hipp 452) on Nov. 8 at 11 a.m. and Dec. 6 at 3:30 p.m. More details including how to apply are available online.
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