CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – On an overcast afternoon in August, Dr. Osvaldo Di Paolo, Austin Peay State University associate professor of Spanish, stood on a beach in the Galapagos Islands and watched ocean waves crash against black, volcanic rocks. A few feet away, a marine iguana prepared to go for a swim.
The creature was a bit larger than the lizards Di Paolo might find at home in Clarksville, but it was nothing compared to the giant, 800-pound tortoises he saw earlier that day. Charles Darwin wrote about both animals more than 100 years ago, when he made his famous voyage to the island, and Di Paolo hopes to show off the creatures to a group of students next summer as part of a new study abroad program, offered by the APSU Office of International Education.
The four-week program will allow students to study Spanish while experiencing a unique aspect of culture in Ecuador. Study abroad programs in foreign languages often take students to metropolitan areas, where they learn urban forms of communication and culture.
“This one is going to be all about nature,” Di Paolo said. “We’re going to visit turtle breeding farms, the Darwin Institute of Research; we’re going to visit different islands and learn about all the unique wildlife.”
For Spanish students, the location is ideal because people from all over Ecuador inhabit the town of Puerto Ayora.
“They’re from all over the country, so you’ll hear different accents, taste all different foods,” Di Paolo said.
Students will stay in the Hotel Mainao in Puerto Ayora. The hotel is centrally located, with views of the ocean. During the day, participants will enhance their Spanish skills while exploring one of the world’s most unique and diverse ecosystems.
“A study abroad opportunity in the Galapagos Islands would definitely be a life changing experience for most APSU students,” Dr. Marissa Chandler, director of International Education at APSU, said. “Students will have an opportunity to fully immerse themselves in the adventurous island culture, while learning in a unique and precious biosphere.”
Students in other disciplines, such as biology or history, who intend to someday conduct research in a foreign country, could also benefit from the program, Di Paolo said.
The APSU Office of International Education is now taking applications for the Galapagos Islands trip. For more information, visit the website http://www.apsu.edu/internationaled/galapagos-islands, or contact Di Paolo at firstname.lastname@example.org or Dr. Katherine Honea, assistant coordinator of the trip, at email@example.com.
Photo cutline: Osvaldo Di Paolo and Marissa Chandler examine a rather large tortoise while in the Galapagos Islands.