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Abby Dell ’24 is a Biology major, Exercise and Sport Science major, and Spanish for the Medical Professions minor who participated in the Galapagos Study Abroad program in Summer 2023.

Abby Dell and two other study abroad students on a hillWhat made you decide to study abroad in the Galapagos?

I studied abroad in Granada, Spain, in 2022 to further my Spanish abilities. I felt strongly about looking for another program to expand my awareness of new cultures as well as something that I had a strong interest in, which brought me to the Galapagos. The unique location coupled with the ecological perspective of these islands, which is unlike that of any other places, convinced me that this is where I was meant to spend my summer.

What did a typical day in the Galapagos look like for you?

I would wake up around 7:45 to enjoy a home-cooked breakfast and leave for school around 8:30. I had classes from 9-12, Monday through Friday, with a break in between. Afterward, I was free to find any restaurant to eat lunch; I usually chose food from the lunch-of-the-day menu for $5. After this, I had a free afternoon unless there was an excursion planned. I usually spent my afternoons seaside, reading books or snorkeling with the sea lions at one of the beaches. Then, I would return to my host family where we would all eat dinner together at 7 pm and then spend time together, either talking or playing games, for a few hours. I’d finish up any leftover homework before heading to bed around 11 pm.

What is one experience you had in the Galapagos that is going to stick with you for a while?

I helped to organize a scuba/snorkel experience with a local dive shop to Kicker Rock. I was able to go scuba diving with black tip sharks, sea turtles, rays, and tons of fish. Being able to see such a diverse range of animals was absolutely incredible; these dives had me completely awestruck! The other experience that stands out was simply being with my host family. They were some of the kindest and most accommodating people I have ever met in my life, and I imagine we will be lifelong friends. They’ve encouraged me to use my Spanish and try new foods that they typically enjoy, and the way that they’ve provided me a glimpse into their way of life and attitudes towards the animals and plants on the island was amazing.

What did this trip teach you about yourself?

I’ve learned that I am capable of adapting to new cultures and working through changing circumstances.

What new experiences or mindsets are you taking from your trip back to UNC?

My study abroad adventures have taught me to go into everything with an open mind and try most things at least once!

What advice would you give to other students interested in studying abroad in the Galapagos?

Give yourself the opportunity to experience something new. This is the time to see what you’re really interested in, so take a chance and go for it!