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Patton Mebel ’25 is a Spanish Literature and Cultures major and Art History minor who participated in the Galapagos Study Abroad program in Summer 2023.

Patton Mebel sitting in the back of a truck.

How did you decide to study abroad in the Galapagos?

I was searching for a unique study abroad experience that would push me out of my comfort zone. This program was the perfect fit!

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

My days started with breakfast with my host mom, then a quick walk to the university before my two classes. After class, we’d all head across the street and have lunch in one of the food stalls right next to Playa Mann. This was followed by the mandatory beach nap before either doing some homework or making the journey out to snorkel at Tijeretas. Some days we’d stay in town and play soccer with some of the local students or volunteer at the university or naval base. Around six I’d head back home for dinner. My host family and I would share stories from our days and end the night with a movie, a dance party, or by sitting out front with the dogs.

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

I will never forget the bond that I formed with my Ecuadorian host family. My host brother was the town DJ, which meant our house was filled with music most nights. After dinner my host sister and I would dance together in the living room. With the speakers blasting music and the colorful lights filling the room, I just felt perfectly happy.

A group selfie of Patton Mebel and eight other study abroad students at the oceanfront.

What did you learn about yourself during this trip?

I learned that I’m a lot stronger than I had previously given myself credit for. When I found myself in a new world, I was delighted by how quickly I adapted.

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

At the risk of sounding incredibly cheesy, I am bringing a new me back to UNC! After spending the summer on San Cristobal I feel like I’ve found new passions, formed new relationships, and gained a more nuanced world view. I will forever look back on my time there as an important chapter of my story. So yeah…that and a fridge magnet!

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

I would tell students to throw themselves whole-heartedly into this experience. Go with an open mind and soak up all the magic the Galapagos have to offer!