Most meaningful experience I've had in college December 14, 2022

By (Environmental Science, University of Vermont) - abroad from 06/24/2021 to 08/05/2021 with

Round River Conservation Studies: USA - Sky Island Borderlands

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I was initially signed up to go to Mongolia with Round River and only ended up going to the Sky Islands because of Covid. I won't lie, I was apprehensive at first about living in Arizona in the summer and a little disappointed to be studying "abroad" in the US instead of Mongolia. Luckily, it turned out to be one of the most special summers of my life and I'm so glad I chose to go! The image I had in my head of Arizona was a SpongeBobesque wasteland; instead, it was an incredibly beautiful and diverse patchwork of mountains, valleys, and streams. Each Sky Island mountain range that we worked in was covered in Ponderosa forest and the desert valleys in between were like nothing I'd ever seen before. We also got to see everything turn green over the course of the monsoon season from July to August. For academics, we had some readings and homework to do, but most of the work was field-based. We mostly worked with Round River's community partner Sky Island Alliance- the biggest projects were monitoring springs in the mountains, doing riverbank restoration in a canyon, and helping with the US-Mexico border wildlife survey. The border, and its implications for wildlife (and people), is a huge factor in conservation in the Southwest. We talk about socio-ecological systems in my classes at UVM all the time, but there is nothing like actually experiencing and working in that landscape to help you understand the problems faced in this field. It was really cool to get to work with Round River's community partners and know that the research you are doing is solicited by the people who live and work there. A nice part about the Sky Island program specifically is that you get to make connections with people in the conservation world in the US! (I was even able to go back to Arizona this summer to do research with one of the people I met through being on Round River a year before!).

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 6 months+

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

I learned a ton, but it was mostly field-based and group-based so the academics weren't stressful or anything

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

We slept in tents most of the time, so if you know that's something you wouldn't enjoy this program might not be the best fit. However, if you're aren't sure whether that sounds good to you, I would say have an open mind about it- you get used to it super fast!

* Food:

We mostly took turns cooking for everyone in pairs and got to have a lot of say about what we wanted to eat (and got insane burritos in Tucson once in a while)

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

This is a field-based program- not based in a university like a lot of study abroad programs. We did meet a lot of people, including lots of really interesting and good to know people in the conservation field, but they were mostly adults- the people in the program were the other people my age that I met for the most part.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

* Safety:

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? Yes


* Money: How easily were you able to live on a student's budget?

(1 = not very easy/$200+ on food & personal expenses/week, 2.5 = $100/week, 5 = very easily/minimal cost)

I spent basically no money the entire time because we weren't exactly around stores a lot!


* Did your program have a foreign language component? No

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Other
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
About how many local friends did you make that you will likely keep in touch with?

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • Research project
  • Camping and hiking all the time
  • Surroundings
* What could be improved?
  • Genuinely can't think of anything
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? I wish I had brought less stuff with me- I really didn't need much and it was annoying to bring it back and forth.

Reasons For Studying Abroad

To help future students find programs attended by like-minded individuals, please choose the profile that most closely represents you.
The Academic or Linguist
You went abroad with specific academic goals in mind; the program credentials and rigor of your coursework abroad were very important to you. You had a great time abroad, but never lost sight of your studies and (if applicable) were diligent with your foreign language study. Good for you!