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Jake O'Brien with two Fellow TCE Students

Jake O’Brien: Student Report from 2017 Alternative Summer Break in Ecuador

I have always dreamed of traveling the world, but I never acted on all the dreams and desires that I am constantly talking about. Maybe it is because I feared traveling to an unknown place, or that I might be uncomfortable the day I got there and want to return to my nice cozy bed instead of staying in a hostel with strangers – of course, no one wants to tell themselves that, and especially not other people. But all that changed when I saw a flyer in Perkins Hall on campus for an international trip to Ecuador with the Tickle College of Engineering. Seeing the flyer forever changed my life. I was nervous to travel to a foreign country, especially one that I never hear anything about on the news or online, as well as a place where it seems like no one I know has been, but maybe that was a good thing, as I had a clean slate for new experiences.

Traveling to a foreign country like Ecuador really opens a lot of doors. I learned from the people there that there is always a way to get things done. While building the path at Yana Cocha Animal Reserve, we used only natural materials, whereas if we would have been in the US we would have hauled bags of dirt and mixed concrete and made the path with it. We hauled rocks and dirt from around the park to create a path that all of us could be proud of.

Hammock Hanging in Ecuador
Hammock Hanging in Ecuador

As for the people we met I could not be happier to know them. Everyone that I met, I would like to see again. Everyone was so welcoming and loved having us there. The folks from Yana Cocha even invited us to their other park, Tamandua, where only a few hundred people have been able to go; it was one of the highlights of my trip to Ecuador. It was interesting to see the place where they release the animals back into the wild after they have been rescued and rehabilitated.

It is hard for me to put into words how this trip has affected me because I cannot express how deeply I desire to travel. This trip showed me how much of the world there is to explore and how much I would love to experience it. As for South America, I know I will return to experience more.