We talked with Beth Kennett, winner of the 2014 UVM Travel Study Photo Contest, about her experience studying Alpaca Husbandry in Ecuador.
Developing a Passion for Travel
Q: First of all, congratulations! You received the most votes for the best student photo in the UVM Travel Study Photo Contest. So, tell us, why were you drawn to a UVM Travel Study course?
A: I have always wanted to get out and see the world – it’s in my blood. My grandmother was a huge world traveler and used to bring back hundreds of photos that I fondly remember going through as a young girl. I really wanted to participate in a study abroad program because I know that she would have been happy to see me traveling and learning at the same time. Being my senior year, this was my last chance!
Q: What made you decide to participate in the UVM Travel Study program in Ecuador?
A: I love working with animals because being around them relaxes me, and I love how they are all so different. When I heard of the Primer in Alpaca Husbandry course, I could not resist. Not only would I be able to see amazing landscapes and hike all over the Ecuadorian Andes, but also work with an animal I had rarely encountered. Not to mention I got to spend New Year’s Eve on the equator. Overall, it sounded like an amazing experience that I couldn’t pass up!
Q: How did you prepare for your experience?
A: I didn’t prepare too much for the course because I was so swept up in the end of the fall semester. Thankfully, I did feel pretty comfortable with the animal handling due to my experience in the Cooperative in Real Education of Agricultural Management (CREAM) here at UVM. I can say that I wish I had done more cardio in preparation as walking up hill at 11,000 feet can do a number on you.
Q: Tell us about a funny story or a life changing moment from your trip.
A: Wow, where do I begin? The whole trip was full of hilarious moments and life changing experiences. A life changing moment for me was when we first came over the crest of the Pacific Andes and were able to see the Atlantic range on the other side. It was absolutely breathtaking, but oddly enough, it also reminded me of home in northern New Hampshire. Albeit the mountains in New Hampshire were infinitely smaller, I couldn’t help but feel at ease. Even in the Andes, I wasn’t a world away from home. The mountains made me realize, that no matter how far from home you are, there will always be something to remind you of where you came from.
Q: Complete the sentence: I would never travel without_____ because ________.
A: I would never travel without my 550 Paracord because you never know when you will need some rope, whether to tie your sleeping bag to your pack or make a clothesline.
Q: Did you experience culture shock? What did you notice about culture when you returned home?
A: I didn’t really experience any culture shock. What I did find extremely humbling was how people who have so little were so happy and content. I feel like so many people in our country want more, and think that bigger is better. Meanwhile, some of the happiest people I met in Ecuador lived in houses made of concrete, or houses that are bamboo insulated with a mixture of horse manure and mud with only three or four rooms. It made me realize that I don’t need a big fancy house to feel at home.
Q: What is something you tried that surprised you?
A: Llama meat – which is very different from Alpaca meat, I might add. We tried both on the trip. I enjoyed llama much more than alpaca, it was amazing how different they tasted!
Q: What was the best meal you ate? What was the strangest thing you ate?
A: We were served a meal in a small town where llamas play a huge part in the economy and history. There we were served llama in a red wine sauce with quinoa, grilled plantain, tomato and lettuce salad, and half of an avocado. It was an amazing meal. The strangest thing we ate was in very small village outside of Salinas, where we helped them vaccinate their small alpaca herd. In return for our work, they served us lunch; the main focus of which was boiled guinea pig. Needless to say, it was pretty strange.
Q: What have you learned? How has travel abroad changed your perspective?
A: I have learned so much, yet I can barely put it into words. We learned about the different habitats of the Andes, and how history has shaped them. We learned how to manage a herd of alpacas and their life cycles. We also learned the importance of preserving alpacas and what a huge economic benefit they can be to a small community. Studying abroad has made me want to travel more and see more of the world, but it has also taught me that I can live below my means. I can live on less than I earn, and still live a happy fulfilling life.
Q: What would you tell someone who is considering taking a UVM Travel Study course?
A: Just do it. Take the plunge. You won’t regret it. I was so apprehensive about flying and traveling with a bunch of people who I barely knew. I came back with a thirst for travel that cannot be parched and a group of 11 people who I will never forget because we enjoyed the experience of a lifetime together.
Beth Kennett is a senior biology major and animal science minor at UVM who was involved in the CREAM program. She hopes to continue working with animals by pursuing a career in animal nutrition.
Interested in study abroad? Visit learn.uvm.edu