Skip to main content

Ryan Schmedding ’18 is an Environmental Health Science major who participated in the Galapagos Study Abroad program in Summer 2017.

Ryan Schmedding resting his hands on a sign reading 'Ecuador in la mitad del mundo' on a town's dirt road.

Why did you choose to study abroad in the Galapagos?

I have always been interested in environmental science and ecology, and I first learned about the Galapagos program from a poster in the hall outside of one of my classes. I thought that I would never get an opportunity to go explore an environment like that again, so I immediately applied to join the program and reached out to Professor Will Vizuete about assisting with field research while I was there too.

What was the most interesting cultural experience you had abroad?

Life on the Galapagos is definitely slower paced than most other places that I have been. People are very laid back about almost everything. Many of the locals work as small-scale fishers to feed their families. It was always interesting to watch the boats come in at the end of the day and see all of the sea lions run up to the fishers in anticipation of getting extra fish.

How did your summer experience impact the way you view the world?

My summer in the Galapagos made me more aware of how interconnected all of the different aspects of environmental systems are. This experience is what initially got me interested in studying air pollution and human health, which has led to me pursuing a Ph.D. at McGill University in Montreal.

What piece of advice would you give a fellow student who is considering studying abroad in the Galapagos?

It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity, so go for it! The islands are getting more and more crowded with each passing year, so go now while you have the chance!

What classes did you take while in the Galapagos?

“Marine biology and Oceanography of the Galapagos” with Professor Adrian Marchetti and “Atmospheric Aerosols: Tiny Particles, Big Problems” with Professor Will Vizuete.

Describe a typical day for you in the Galapagos.

Most mornings, I would get up and eat breakfast with my host family. We spent the better part of the morning in class at the Galapagos Science Center, but we would often take excursions to different beaches and field sites. In the afternoons, we would go snorkel or hang out on the beach. In the evenings, I would eat dinner with my host family and learn more about Ecuadorean culture from them. On weekends we would often take excursions to snorkeling or scuba diving sites further from San Cristobal or would explore the other inhabited islands.

If you could only pack 3 things in your suitcase to prepare you for the Galapagos, what would they be?

Sunscreen. The sun is very intense down there and if you have fair skin you will burn very quickly.
A good pair of hiking shoes or boots. The inland parts of the island are very rocky and mountainous, a pair of flip-flops definitely won’t cut it outside of town. Good snorkeling gear. There are so many amazing snorkeling beaches right near campus and on the other islands, and there’s nothing better than getting out of class and going to swim with sea turtles.