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Two Dragons welcome the sunrise with an improvised dance atop the Andes. Photo by Ryan Gasper.

Nice to Meet Ya!

I hope you’re all as simultaneously nervous and excited as I am as February 7th approaches. I know that the bonds we make with each other will be at the heart of this program, so I thought I’d be the first to post an introduction and hopefully start the domino effect because I’m so anxious to know more about the people who are apparently going to become my lifelong friends.

My name is Olivia, I’m from Portland, Oregon, and I guess I’ll start out by saying I’m not the typical gap semester student. I just finished the first semester of my 3rd year of college, and stumbled across Dragons as I was searching for a study abroad program. Incidentally, a good friend of mine from school had done Andes & Amazon during her gap year, and strongly advocated for it. I know that I’ve always regretted not going on a gap year, and because of that I knew I wanted a unique and intensive abroad experience during my junior year where hands-on versus classroom learning was emphasized. Additionally, complications and restrictions with my school’s accreditation of only a small number of (expensive!) abroad programs limited my options, so I opted to do this program where for-credit courses aren’t the main emphasis.

I’m currently attending/taking a gap semester from Pitzer College, a small liberal arts college in Southern California, where I’m dual majoring in Psychology and Sociology and minoring in Media Studies. There are some pretty important people in my life that I’ve met there, and I know it will be hard to leave them for a semester. Most likely, I will talk about them frequently, especially in the first few weeks. Additionally, my love for singing and music is something you’ll quickly learn about me. At Pitzer, I’m in an A Cappella group and love to sing and play guitar with friends. I’m trying to bring my ukulele on the trip so let me know if you want me to learn any specific songs or bring your ukulele along so we can play together!

Another thing I’ve been told I never shut up about is camp. Based on the nature of this program, I’m sure I’ve got some fellow camp counselors in this group. Since I was 9 years old, I’ve been attending and then working at Camp Westwind, a summer camp on the Oregon Coast that I’m convinced is the most beautiful place in the world. I’m sure Bolivia and Peru will change my mind, though. This camp is where I discovered and developed my passion for being outside, and introduced me to backpacking, as we lead weekly backpacking trips with the campers. Other than camp, I’ve only gone on a few backpacking trips but have been interested in doing more intensive trekking for more than a few years now! I’m an avid viewer of Pacific Crest Trail vlogs/documentaries and completing it is definitely on my bucket list.

Aside from the trekking aspect of this trip, which I am extremely excited and scared for, I am really committed to becoming fluent in Spanish! I have been taking Spanish on and off since high school, and can’t seem to improve past a certain point. I know that immersion in a host family in a Spanish-speaking country is the best way to break that barrier. Additionally, I would love to learn about the local indigenous cultures and activism. I was so excited when I learned that Bolivia currently has its first indigenous president and I want to focus on indigenous populations for my ISP. I’m also excited to learn about farming practices, criminal organizations, education, and music/dance native to the area!

Here are some other random things about me that I thought I’d share:

  • I am thinking about cutting off all of my hair before I leave because it gets so tangled when I don’t wash it. Thoughts???
  • Some things I’m nervous about are over-packing and getting sick
  • Broad City is my favorite TV show and I identify more with Abbi than Ilana, but I definitely have my Ilana moments.
  • I also love watching comedy in general even though I could never do it myself.
  • I’ve recently started rock climbing and hope we can incorporate climbing into the trip somehow!
  • I have some loose travel plans in Lima, Chile, Argentina after the program ends. Let me know if you’re interested in tagging along!

Please feel free to contact me, especially if you’ll be flying to Miami from LAX! I would love to get to know everyone and/or meet up at the airport.