Honors Travel Grant Helps Student Travel To Uruguay

by   |  03.24.11  |  Honors College News, Honors Student Achievements

The following story was submitted by Michelle Cornell who traveled to Montevideo, Uruguay in the Fall of 2010 with the help of an Honors College grant.

Punta Ballena.jpg

Going for the Gold

This past fall I had the opportunity to leave the United States to study abroad in Montevideo, Uruguay.  Before leaving that fateful day in August, I had no idea what I was getting myself into.  At that point in time, I could not have possibly imagined the incredible community I would become a part of, the amount of Spanish language I would learn, the beauty and diversity of the places we would go to, and the adventures my fellow study-abroaders and I would manage to get ourselves into.  On that August day of departure, I packed up my bags, checked to see that I still had my passport, got onto the bus, and tried to decide which emotions I was feeling in that moment.  Sitting in the back of that bus, I could not entirely suppress the mounting apprehension that the trip I had decided to go on was going to be a lot more life-changing than I had ever expected.  Fortunately, that apprehension of mine was entirely accurate.

Over the course of the semester, it became my goal to make the most of every experience, whether that be in Uruguay or during travel.  Realizing that the semester would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, the necessity of gleaning as much as possible out of every event became the desire of our small study abroad community, and one of our mottos for the trip becamLa Playa.jpge, “Go for the gold!”  In going for the gold, my travel grant became absolutely invaluable, because rather than spending it all in one place, I divided it up to enhance several adventures along the course of the semester.  Thus, with the travel grant money I was able to explore and adventure above and beyond my original intention to make the most of my traveling experiences.

One of these adventures supplied by the travel grant remains one of my favorite memories of my study abroad experience.  About halfway through the semester our group took a trip to Iguaçu Falls, Brazil, which is one of the most beautiful places in the world.  Where Paraguay, Argentina, and Brazil come together, there are the Iguaçu Falls, some of the most majestic waterfalls on earth, which are surrounded by dense jungle.  Our days on that trip were spent hiking through the jungle, viewing the falls from both Argentina and Brazil, and learning about the incredible ecosystem and environment of the jungle.  Though this trip was fabulous in and of itself, Brazilian Butterfly.jpgthe cherry on top was when I was able to use some of my travel grant money to go white water rafting down the Paraná River.  Four other girls and I used our free afternoon to go white water rafting, which entailed walking through a jungle, climbing down a rusty spiral staircase from the top of the falls down to the river, and crawling across giant boulders in the riverbed to a small lean-to tent.  Upon arrival, we discovered that our rafting guide only spoke Portuguese, and the other people in the raft only spoke Chinese.  That afternoon was certainly an adventure I could not have missed: after surviving the rapids, we were able to swim and float down the Parana, one of the longest rivers in South America.  The experience provided me with not only a fun story to tell, but also helped me to more fully realize the awesome power of God, who created the wild beauty and grandeur of Brazil.

Quite honestly, what I saw and heard and experienced this past fall will remain with me forever.  Uruguay is not just a place I visited; it is onIguazu Falls.jpge of my homes.  Study abroad is not just an experience that I went through; it is an event that molded and shaped me.  With the travel grant, I was able to create and add details to my trips that had direct influence on the way I now view the entire semester.  By utilizing the resources given to me, I was able to taste an acai smoothie, ride a motorcycle taxi through a Brazilian favela, jump on a jeep to Cabo Polonio, horseback ride along La Paloma beach, white water raft in the midst of the Brazilian jungle, and attend a Uruguayan fútbol game, all of which allowed me to more fully taste and see true South American culture and life.  The life-changing aspect of study abroad occurred in the details, small trips, and side adventures that built up to shape the rest of my experience.  As I suspected on the bus back in August, study abroad did turn out to be stunningly life-changing, and it is my hope for all those who are considering or will be studying abroad in the future that they would have a similarly amazing semester by stepping out, donning an adventurous spirit, and going for the gold.