Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Diving into D.C.

My name is Elizabeth Heffernan and I’m a junior at Buena Vista University.  I’m double majoring in English and Political Science, I’m from Sioux City, Iowa and this semester I’ve been interning at a private law firm called Marzulla Law LLC in Washington D.C. I’ve been in D.C. now for a little more than a month and I can’t believe time has flown by so quickly!  Every weekend I’ve been out in the city and the surrounding areas, seeing all the monuments, museums, and even a chocolate festival (and it was just as good as it sounds). I’ve seen the White House, the Capitol, and I’m even going to tour the Supreme Court.

I have been blessed enough to travel a little before now.  I’ve visited England, France, and the Dominican Republic all through opportunities here at BV.  But I’ve never had the chance to stay somewhere like D.C. for an entire semester.  I wanted to test myself, to see what it would be like to be so far from home for an extended amount of time.

And to tell the truth, it’s a bit of a culture shock.  You wouldn’t expect that here in the United States I would have more of a culture shock in another state than I would in another country.  But the big city is so much different than back home.  The pace is faster, everyone is always busy, and there are so many things to do.  But it’s been so eye opening.  I never thought I could fit in in a big city.  Sometimes I still have those moments where I miss home but there are times when I realize that I am able to navigate the city by myself, and that is a great feeling.

I’ve never had an internship before and it’s a great experience.  It’s so much different than school, having to stay focused from 9-6 every day of the week.  People depend on you in a way that they don’t really do at school.  You’re being tested every day but you get to meet lots of new people, and the people at my internship have been so nice and fun to be around.  I’ve learned a lot about what I am capable of and what I can do when put to the test And the best part? No homework (at least, not much). When I get back at night I’m actually finished for the day and am able to watch a show or read a book before I go to bed and not have to worry about anything due for work the next day.

I never thought I would grow up this much in so little time.  I feel more comfortable with myself, more ready to face things I didn’t think I could face.  I’ve realized that I can learn on the job and that it is all right to make mistakes.  I’ve learned so much, not just through this experience but through all my travel.  At a seminar I went to here, one of the speakers said if you don’t do something because you’re scared of doing it, that’s not a good enough reason.  Even though I was nervous about being so far away and doing something completely new, I put myself out there.  And it was worth it.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

In Chile with the Global Fellows Program

Hello all! My name is Annie and I am currently in Chile with the Global Fellows program. 

What is Global Fellows you ask? It’s awesome is what it is. Last February, five other students and I were selected through an application process and were given the opportunity to explore Chile, to study its culture as well as environmental sustainability. In the last 3 weeks we’ve been all over the country. We started at the end of the earth (or civilization anyway) in Puerto Williams – the southernmost town in the world. From there we’ve steadily made our way back up north, visiting Puerto Natales and Punta Arenas down in Patagonia, Valparaiso on the coast, and ending up where we are now in Santiago (the capital!). 

But while we have been able to see a lot of amazing sites during our stay here, this trip is bigger than tourism. We’ve gone through a series of experiences that have allowed us to immerse ourselves completely in the culture and deepen our relationship with the environment. While we were down in Puerto Williams, we were able to spend time with Julia – the only person on the planet who speaks Yahgan (the language of the indigenous people of the area). We also went on a camping trip where we got up close and personal with nature – with the Robalo River in particular. We drank straight from it (no worries – it’s the cleanest water you’ll find anywhere) and we used it to wash our dishes. It helped us to realize firsthand how important water is in our lives.

And while we were down in Patagonia we were introduced to some pretty awesome wildlife. There were cara cara, austral parakeets, rhea, guanaco, and (my personal favorite) magellanic penguins! 

When we ventured further north, we were introduced to a different sort of ecosystem. One that was full of color and bustling life. In Valparaiso we found a number of things that we weren’t used to seeing back home, including some pretty stunning graffiti. It was on just about every flat surface! And here in Santiago, we’re truly at the heart of the country.

We are all heading back home soon, but I’m pretty sure I speak for everyone when I say that we’ll never forget this experience. Some parts were definitely a challenge – one of the biggest for me was the lack of peanut butter in this country (I miss it so bad!) – but looking back, it was totally worth sacrificing three weeks worth of my favorite spread. Being forced out of our comfort zone made the whole trip a more personal experience. I know for certain that I would not have made it through any of our stops here without the expertise of the people we met here. We’ve relied almost completely on the locals and their culture to show us how things work down here.  I can’t imagine meeting more interesting people on any other trip. Through these new relationships we’ve built with the people and places of Chile, we’ve truly had a once in a lifetime experience.

If you want to learn more about our trip, there’s going to be an ACES event on February 6 at 7:00 PM. We’d love to tell you all about it!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Top photos and moments from Ecuador and Galapagos

As my trip to the Galapagos Islands and Ecuador has come to an end, so has my college career at Buena Vista University.

This J-term trip was my graduation present to myself as was my way of ending my college career on a high note! All things considered, it wasn’t a half bad way to do it (and having my 22nd birthday on the trip was just the cherry on top of the fantastically delicious sundae that was the Galapagos).

In addition to this trip being a gift to myself, it was also an opportunity to get some cool photos to expand my photography portfolio. Although I did get some great photos for my portfolio, I found myself being drawn to photos not because of their photographic qualities - but because of their subject matter.

Here are some of my favorite photos from the trip:

This photo is from dock in San Cristobal on our first day in the Galapagos. We were headed back to the Coral II after visiting a tortoise habitat, the sunsets were so breath taking I couldn’t help take photo after photo.

On my birthday we were woken up at sunrise to view this rock formation. After viewing it from the yacht we took a dingy ride around it to view the wildlife and caverns it hosts. This photo was taken upon our return to the boat when the sun rid the formation of dark shadows.

This photo was also taken on my birthday. This is the north side of San Cristobal where we saw sea lions up close for the first time. In this photo I love the contrast between the dark rocks and the crystal clear water.

One of the most publicized attractions to the Galapagos Islands are the boobies and this was the perfect set up for a close up shot of the red footed boobie.  I wanted so badly to capture a photo that showed the red feet! Luckily, we stumbled upon a nest and I was able to get a shot of red feet and an egg.
This is a marine iguana. We spent a lot of the time on the trip looking for marine iguanas. When finally we got to one of the volcanic islands, we found more iguanas than one could even register. This particular iguana is sunning himself on some rocks. The coolest thing about the iguanas is that they cannot absorb the copious amount of salt in the water so they have to sneeze out the salt.

Although not the most aesthetically pleasing photo - this is one of my favorites. The volcanic island that we found the iguanas on is also the same island where there are a lot of baby sea lions.  This little guy was taking a snooze in a tide pool. He would blow out bubbles under water and lift his head for air and back in the water continuing his snooze. I was so entranced by this little guy I couldn’t help but stare at him.
This was the only owl we found while on the islands. I believe it is a Galapagos owl. Jean (one of our naturalist guides) told us that owls choose this volcanic island because there is little competition for food. This island is where we walked over the lava fields, here it looked like moving water was petrified in mid motion.

 I also want to share some of my favorite moments from the trip! So although they're not particularly great photos, the moments were priceless:

This photo is from the last day on the Coral II. The crew was so excited to have a younger group on the ship that they allowed us to swim and jump off of the yacht. This was one of my jumps, it took a while to work up the courage but it was worth the thrill.

This was another one of my favorite moments. This is one of the first sea lions we got to see up close on the north side of San Cristobal. We took a walk on the white sandy beaches watching the sea lions and I took some time to chase the ghost crabs.
This was one of my favorite places. While in Ecuador we visited an orchid farm. After touring the farm and seeing the different stages of development of the orchids we visited their garden. This picture is on the bridge in front of the waterfall in the garden.

So long Ecuador and Galapagos...