HomeHigher EducationStudy AbroadAnd That's A Wrap - Off-Campus Study

And That’s A Wrap – Off-Campus Study

It’s been two weeks now since the program ended, and I write this final post back at my house, surrounded by my family, my cats, and a roaring fire to fight the Illinois cold. The program ended in a blur after arriving to Baños for our final retreat. While there, we took some time to reflect on our time in Ecuador as well as on the program as a whole together as a group. We also hit the highlights of the area, including taking early morning dips in the hot springs (twice), hiking to the Pailon del Diablo waterfall, and exploring the town of Baños. Of course, we also made to have lots of last-minute fun, including karaoke, Ecuadorian dance lessons from one of our faculty, many rounds of cards, and reminiscing on our time together with some slideshows and videos.

When it came time to say goodbye on the final night of the program, it was a hard farewell, knowing the 22 of us would never be all together again (since we live so spread out across the country and even the globe). Fortunately for me though, my time in Ecuador wasn’t up just yet. My parents, brother, and sister had made the trip down to Quito, and after reuniting we spent the next week continuing to explore Ecuador! Highlights of this week include:

  • Touring the Amazon rainforest where we swam in waterfalls, canoed down a river, were shown the traditional medicinal uses of wild plants, learned how chocolate is made at a cocoa farm, and saw loads of wild animals unlike anything I’d seen before
  • Going to the hot springs in Baños yet again (still felt just as nice)
  • Taking a day trip into the Mindo Cloud Forest where we saw and held many hummingbirds and butterflies, took a cable car across the valley, hiked to and swam in another incredible waterfall, zip lined over the tree tops, and explored the town on Mindo
  • Seeing my host family one last time

At the end of the week, finally, after nearly four straight months of traveling across four different continents, it was time to return home. I’ve had a few weeks now to reflect on my time and begin to tell loved ones back home what the adventure was like. It’s been hard to sum up my time this semester in words, so for my blog here I’ll start with a compilation of snippets from each day across the semester. 

While I do think this compilation does a good job of showing what SIT’s IHP Climate Change program can look like in brief, I’d be remiss not to mention all it leaves out. My video is just the highlight reel and leaves out all the hard moments, tears shed, and sicknesses endured. This semester was one of major growth for me (I was even voted most changed during our superlative award night during the retreat!), and serious change is never easy, but I certainly don’t regret a second of it. 

There’s been a lot that I’ve learned, most of which I can barely scratch the surface of in this post. The program has taught me so much about climate change, environmental justice, capitalist systems, and my place in making change. I’ve learned to push myself like never before, embracing discomfort and fear and as a result come to trust myself in a whole new way. I’ve gotten to understand much better the value of nature, art, and connection as sources of strength and comfort. Stepping away from campus has also made me realize a need to shift my priorities away from being endlessly busy and towards a balanced life that values taking time for myself and having adventures (big or small). The last thing I have to mention is how much I’ve realized I don’t know. I have a lot to learn, many stories to hear, and a huge world to explore, and there’s not much that excites me more than that. 

Finally, if you’ve read my blogs up until this point, I want to say a huge thank you! Thank you for following along on my journey and listening to my musings, and thank you to my family and friends for supporting me along the way. I hope my words have been a source of inspiration for us all to want to get to know our world and our selves just a bit better.

Rizwan Ahmed
Rizwan Ahmed
AuditStudent.com, founded by Rizwan Ahmed, is an educational platform dedicated to empowering students and professionals in the all fields of life. Discover comprehensive resources and expert guidance to excel in the dynamic education industry.


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