Amelia traveled with Putney to Ecuador & the Galápagos and wrote her college admissions essay about the experience and impact of witnessing the imperiled Galápagos ecosystem firsthand.

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“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Seymour Airport, Isla Baltra, the current time is 14:35, and the temperature outside is 25 degrees Celsius,” the pilot announces. Beginning to walk down the airstairs and onto a new continent, I am blasted by a breath of humidity and heat. Around me, I can hear birds singing songs that I have never heard before and travelers speaking languages foreign to my ears. The spark of excitement hits me after three flights. I have made it to the Galapagos Islands, but I still have four boat rides ahead of me before I reach my final destination. This will be the place where I experience the world, greet a new culture, and make new friends and memories. Unbeknownst to me, the person who arrives on these islands is not the same as the one who leaves. She will hold more wonder for the world and will exit this exotic land with a sense of direction and purpose.

15 days, that is how long it took for that spark of excitement to explode into a fire of passion. During this period of time, I grew to understand who I wanted to become and what purpose I wanted to dedicate my life to: wildlife. During my expedition on these islands, I encountered many species whose lives were hanging in a delicate balance. This saddened me at first, but I quickly realized there was a tightly-knit and powerful community that was supporting them. This magical place was special in more ways than one, here they put the wildlife first.

As we hop from island to island, I greet many new species, like the iconic Galapagos Tortoise. While observing their limited numbers, I noticed their wrinkled faces and intelligent eyes staring back at me. I am struck with the thought; these gentle creatures were almost hunted to extinction. The spark of passion ignites into a steady flame. I could be part of the next generation of conservationists, part of the future, and part of the solution. As my feet carried me away, my mind was someplace else. I was feeling inspired!

It was during a reef dive when we spotted a graceful beauty floating towards us, an endangered green sea turtle when this concept really became locked on to me. “Look around you,” my guide Peppo told us. I took in the shimmering water and the vibrant creatures surrounding me. In an uneasy voice, he stated, “You. You may be some of the last people to ever see many of these species”. This statement shook me to the core. The concept that if I return again, these unique animals might not be waiting for me. I now could understand where my passion and purpose in life intersected. The flame inside of me transformed into a wildfire, burning through my entire being.

From this point forward I viewed the world in a completely new way, like an outsider looking in. My eyes drank in each species we saw like it could be our last meeting. I felt like the Lorax as he said goodbye to many old friends, unsure if they would ever meet again, for they had to move on to a better place.

A week later, the fire in my heart still blazing with purpose, I board the airplane that will carry me away from this place that is unlike any other. I make a promise to myself and all the creatures that call this place home. I will come back, but next time with a degree, one that will help save this diverse ecosystem from extinction. The girl who boards this plane is different from the one who first stepped off of it. She has grown not only as an individual, but as a citizen of this world, and a caretaker of the earth she lives on.

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