by Shelley Eberhardy Academic Dean
In March of 2017, I had the wonderful opportunity to travel to the Galapagos Islands with 9 Summit students and 2 staff. Going into the trip, I had my expectations. I was excited to see the animals, visit the beaches, and travel to a Spanish-speaking country. I assumed that we would learn about Darwin, tortoises, and numerous varieties of birds. What I wasn’t expecting were all the unplanned lessons that came from international travel.
On our first travel day, we got delayed and quickly learned that South American time is different from North American time; life moves slower, all things come in their own time, and you must have patience. We had to learn to slow down and make the most of any situation, enjoy each other’s company, take naps, and observe our surroundings.
Self-care is imperative while travelling internationally and especially in the intense sun of the Galapagos. It was interesting to watch how each student approached this scenario. Some were mindful of drinking water and using sunscreen from the first moment. Others needed constant reminders, and re-reminders. A few ignored directions on sun protection and then suffered the consequences of sunburn pain and extreme tiredness. The most interesting were those that still didn’t learn even after receiving sunburn – continuing to get burned day after day, then complaining about their comfort level each night. The interesting part was that these decisions seemed to be parallel to their therapeutic journeys back at Summit.
Being open to other cultures is a daily decision while travelling. It is so easy to speak English, seek out American foods, and stay in tourist areas. The challenge is being open to the culture, exposing yourself to things that are unknown or uncertain, and learning from those things. Some of the students would only eat things that they knew or had tried before. Other students would try anything placed in front of them. Some would examine all foods skeptically, ask lots of questions, and maybe eventually try a tiny bite. Again each approach seemed to be a demonstration of their individual therapeutic journey.
We learned so much while in the Galapagos about land tortoises, volcanoes, water preservation, blue footed boobies, and fruits of all kinds. But at the end of the trip, I realized that the real take away for me was how much we learned about ourselves in dealing with stress, delays, change, and uncertainty. I have to say that I was so proud of the students on this trip. While everything wasn’t picture perfect, they did their best to approach each day and each activity with a good attitude and an open mind. And really, what more can we ask from them?? I hope they each learned as much about themselves as I did.