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Amazing Accomplishments in Mexico

Keegan Gelvoria ’10 – Three months ago I was bound to study abroad in the Turks & Caicos Islands in the Caribbean, yet I’ve somehow ended up in the Baja Peninsula of Mexico. A series of hurricanes ripped through the Caribbean Islands, which devastated a primarily idyllic area. With the advent of the hurricanes, much of my school’s structure was destroyed and with the addition of students to the island, which had a population of less than 2,000, would only add extra strain onto the local population’s ability to restore the area.

So with the help of Wabash’s amazing off-campus office and the School for Field Studies administration, I was able to salvage the semester and study abroad in Mexico. Within 3 days of the change of plans, I was off on a plane to a new experience. Though the students from the TCI came into the school a week late, it did not take long for the group of students to come together as one.

Throughout the semester, I’ve been able to experience wonderful things I could not possibly accomplish in Crawfordsville. I have been able to “live the life of a fisherman” which consisted of students going out onto boats for a couple of hours to cast various nets and bring up different types of traps. I have been so lucky to stay with a local family to experience a genuine Mexican lifestyle.

Camping trips are scheduled throughout the semester for varying reasons. The last camping trip was done to find and release baby sea turtles. The Baja Peninsula is rife of sea turtle nesting sites which are protected. At certain important nesting sites, there are nurseries which patrol the beach area for turtle nests. The eggs are then taken back into a greenhouse to allow for the eggs to develop undisturbed by human impacts until they are ready to hatch. When most of the clutch has hatched, the turtles are released back into the ocean. We were able to not only release these turtles but also swim with them in the ocean three nights in a row! This was mainly done at Cabo Pulmo National Marine Park, which we snorkeled through many times during the camping trip. We were able to swim with adult turtles, sea lion rookery, loads of fish, and corals. During the boat rides to the various snorkeling sites, we were able to observe whales out in the distance and dolphins right next to our boat. All of this happened within a 5 day camping trip!

The semester is winding down, and our time in Baja is nearly over. Tests need to be taken, and research needs to be finished; my research on Ulva lactuca only has a week before formal presentations and papers are due. There is much I can take from this experience with me for the rest of my life, and the knowledge gained inside and outside of class during this time is invaluable to my studies.