Skip to content
Devon Graham Poses with a Parrot

Devon Graham: Student Report from 2017 Alternative Summer Break in Ecuador

My trip with Tickle College of Engineering to Ecuador was my very first time out of the United States and my very first time on an airplane. Naturally, I was a bit nervous and stressed in the days leading up to departure. However, all of those nerves turned out to be for nothing – the trip turned out to be better than I could have ever imagined. I learned so much, took on new experiences with confidence, and made wonderful new friends. I would recommend this type of service-oriented trip to any of my fellow students.

It was the little things that made the biggest impression on me. From speaking Spanish at the airport, to trying countless new types of fruit juices with every meal, to taking a taxi through the very crowded and busy city and a van down the winding roads of the mountain, to enjoying the unfamiliar landscapes of the rainforest, to completing our service project through non-traditional methods, to taking on a very challenging hike with an extremely rewarding view of the Amazon, to admiring the genuine friendliness of all the new people I met, everything took me out of my comfort zone in an amazing, valuable way. These kinds of opportunities to enhance your education by experiencing totally new things are simply not available at home. Even though the decision to participate in the trip took a bit of courage for me, I have to look back and think: when else would I get to see a historic church with gold lining the walls? When else would I get to interact with exotic rescue animals? When else would I get to experience the sheer adventure that is the Amazon rainforest? I was absolutely inspired by the breathtakingly beautiful views of the rainforest and the community’s drive to protect and preserve its biodiversity.

Devon Graham Working on Service Project
Devon Graham Working on Service Project

Most of all, I am proud to have been a part of our service project. We were fortunate enough to complete a bridge and pathway project for one of the most deserving organizations I’ve ever encountered: the Yana Cocha animal rescue center in the small town of Puyo. Yana Cocha takes in animals that have been abandoned or rescued from bad situations or trafficking. I will always remember the incredible work ethic of the staff and volunteers there and try to apply it to my own future endeavors. After digging out the land for our pathway, hauling in all of the stone and dirt materials with wheelbarrows, painting and building the bridge in an unexpected way, and assembling the bridge and pathway in extremely muddy conditions, I truly appreciated the hard work and perseverance that the Yana Cocha founders personally put in to building the entire animal sanctuary by hand. These experiences taught me the true value of teamwork, good communication, and determination when facing challenges. It was fun getting to see the engineering students use their skills to construct the bridge. As a Spanish student, I was especially thrilled to be able to practice my Spanish to help us accomplish our goals. My participation in this project will forever be a point of pride for me. It was extremely rewarding and simply fun to be able to do some good while also experiencing rich history, vibrant culture, fabulous new friends, inspiring preservation initiatives, and gaining new perspectives. This trip added something remarkable to my education and I am so glad I decided to go. It was an experience unlike anything else I’ve ever done and I will never forget it.