Meet Alyssa Martinez
Program and Location:
Summer, African Ecology and Conservation; Various Locations, Namibia
Why did you choose to study abroad?
I grew up in a small town which gave me a fairly limited perspective on life. I knew traveling would expose me to new cultures and thus, new ideas. It gave me the chance to break out of my bubble and learn from people with different ways of life. In addition, I have dreamed of going to Africa since I was a little kid. I would watch National Geographic and picture myself in the researcher’s shoes. Studying abroad helped me make those dreams happen and it truly changed my life.
What did you learn about yourself?
This trip solidified my career goals. I have always pictured myself working in a “field work” oriented job. I loved all the activities we did and it made me realize this is what I want to do with my life, whether it is working in Africa or the States.
What was one of your favorite parts of your program?
I loved being able to see my favorite animals in their natural habitat. My favorite part was tracking desert elephants. This part of the trip exposed us to human-animal conflict where we learned that most farmers fear elephants. Desert elephants often damage water installations used by the farms, bringing the elephants in direct conflict for water with locals. Learning this perspective allowed a deeper understanding of how to work with people for the purpose of conservation. Of course I was thrilled to see these beautiful giants, but I also understood how their presence can affect the local people.
What advice do you have to future study abroad students?
Take pictures and record your experiences in a journal! I have so many amazing memories from this trip and I love having the ability to look back on what I was feeling when I was there. In addition, maintaining optimism and keeping an open mind is really important when traveling abroad.
Would you do it again?
I would take any opportunity to travel again, especially to Africa!