Science is a remarkable field full of discovery, experiments, observations, and many other kinds of thrilling experiences, but science can be hard at times, especially for students. For students studying science, specifically those in college, it is easy to get caught in the mundane grind of hard science classes and lose sight of the joy involved in science. When a student is required to spend countless hours memorizing polyatomic ions, amino acids, the Krebs Cycle, etc., science can become, for lack of a better word, boring. The excitement of seeing nature, of watching life develop, or even of watching something explode can easily be forgotten. Do not get me wrong, the hard classes full of memorization and calculation are necessary for adequate understanding of science, but, I believe it is equally important for an aspiring scientist to ensure that they balance the textbook with experience. And, by experience I do not mean a one-hour lab in the Science Learning Center. Aspiring scientists need to get out of the classroom and experience what science really is. They need to see what they are really studying in those lengthy textbooks. If undergraduate science students do not do this, I believe they will burn out.
My trip to Ecuador reminded of the joy of science. It reminded me that I loved what I was learning. After tirelessly studying organic chemistry for the five months preceding my trip to Ecuador, I was burned out and discouraged. But, Ecuador changed my perspective. My trip to Ecuador was nothing short of an adventure. From roughing it through the mountains to living a tropical beach life in the Galápagos, our group saw it all. We saw beautiful insects, immaculate mountains, exotic birds, the densest rainforest imaginable, beautiful waterfalls, volcanos, sharks, and even turtles that weighed over 250 pounds. My trip was nothing short of amazing. I never once dreaded anything we did. Each day contained a new adventure that reassured me that science is what I love. Being in Ecuador reminded me that science goes beyond the classroom, that real science is beyond the classroom. I cannot say enough about how refreshing and reassuring my time in Ecuador was.
I want to share an experience that happened to me while in Ecuador. The experience goes to show that when students get out of the classroom and take on adventure, they might just stumble upon an amazing opportunity. To precede this story, you need to know that I am on a pre-medicine track in my undergraduate studies at the University of Georgia. The road to becoming a doctor is long and hard, and it often quite intimidating. When I look ahead at all the studying and testing I will have to do over the next 10 years, sometimes I doubt my career aspirations. Now that you know this, I will share a special experience that had a deep impact on me. During our last week of the trip, we visited different islands in the Galápagos. On one of the islands, our group went on a long bike ride. During this bike ride, as we were admiring a view, we witnessed an older woman crash her bike into a wooden sign off in the distance. She was severely hurt. It just so happened that I had some first aid supplies with me, so I hurried to her to see what I could do to help. When I arrived on the scene, the sweet lady was in bad shape. She had a severe break in her wrist and clavicle as well as a significant laceration on her forehead. As we waited for an emergency crew to arrive, which took roughly 45 minutes, I and three others had the task of stabilizing this lady. The task was difficult. She passed out twice and was in serious pain. To make matters worse, she only spoke Spanish, so it was difficult to communicate with her. But, thankfully, we were able to get her stabilized and cleaned up. After we loaded her into the emergency vehicle and I had a chance to gather my thoughts, I reflected on how incredible of an experience it was to help a lady who might not have had any other help. This experience reassured me that my dream is to one day become a doctor. Just like the wonderful views of Ecuador reminded me that I love science, helping this lady reassured me that I love medicine.
It truly is amazing what getting outside can do. There is no substitute for adventure. Adventure grows us, strengthens us, reassures us of who we are, and even gives us new opportunities. I cannot say enough about how thankful I am for my time in Ecuador. I feel recharged and re-motivated to study hard despite whatever difficulty I may face because I know that my passion is science.