Birthday Celebration, Start of a New Class, and Isabela Experiences!

By Claire Griffin, Study Abroad Student Fall 2019


Hello all!

Where did I leave off last? I believe it was Thursday’s stunning snorkel fieldtrip to Isla Tortuga. The island itself was a marvel: layers of stone jutting out of the sea in beautiful twists and folds, dotted with iguanas and all types of seabirds. Waves of bright blue water sprayed through its caves and blasted against its cliffs, while below the surface huge schools of fish darted among a city of corals, craters, and clefts.

Over the weekend I was lucky to celebrate my birthday here in paradise, surrounded by close friends both new and old. I could not express my utter joy and appreciation in words as what felt like the entire island cheered for me at the stroke of midnight while out on Friday. I spent the first day of my 22nd year learning to surf, snoozing on the beach, hunting down the best pizza on the island, and spending time with my host family.


As an additional birthday delight, BisCaydence (the University of Miami a cappella choir I’ve been in for a years) released its first professional album, “Blue Horizon,” on Spotify Friday. The group, which I consider to be a second family (or third now, when including my beloved hosts here in Isabela), is undoubtedly what I miss most from Miami; as such, the music has become my go-to homesickness remedy.

To everyone’s great excitement, the beginning of this week marked the start of our course with Dr. William Drennan. Touching on everything from climate to geography to botany to governance, Drennan’s course encourages us all to engage in thoughtful discussion and be more mindful of the world around us.


Tuesday involved a long, green bike ride from the base of Sierra Negra volcano (which we will be hiking up later on in the program) back to town, with stops along the way to observe transitions between different climate zones and their associated plant life. Drennan noted that it’s getting more and more difficult to differentiate the distinct subzones within the highlands (grouped together as the “Humid Zone”) as the invasive species introduced for agricultural purposes further their reach. Still, the rich vegetation and stunning views made the long and arduous bike ride worth it!

Until next time, Claire Griffin