By: Bridget Gladden, Zoology (minor in Forestry, Fisheries, and Wildlife) | Beavercreek, OH
What began as thoughts of escape quickly turned into the opportunity of a lifetime. Arriving at Laguna Blanca in Paraguay was no easy feat with delayed flights, unusual transportation methods in Asuncion, and a lack of any sort of fluency in Spanish, but travel never is simple. It was only moments after my arrival that I felt at ease, even at home. There were certainly aspects that I was unaccustomed to like the necessity to throw away toilet paper instead of flush it, the chickens that wander everywhere or the hanging of laundry on lines. Over the next month though, I began to make some of the best friends of my life. I learned unique customs that set Paraguay apart from other countries, and of course, I advanced in both knowledge and ability through my research.
My plan before I arrived was to continue my interest of malformations in amphibians that had developed through research at school. However, due to the lack of time at the field site and limited equipment, I began to focus my attention towards other options. At first, I was disappointed with my inability to settle on one idea. I wanted to change the world, one frog at a time. My uncertainty did afford me one thing: time. I had time to see the reserve from several points of view, time to survey areas that had not yet been surveyed, and time to enjoy my temporary life here. This time was precious to me for in this time, I gained most of my experience and friends.
I ended up conducting research on the homing abilities of a rather comical animal, the Rococo Toad. So, each night I search for toads, collecting them in buckets and placing them around the reserve to see if they will come home. My hypothesis was that the home is where the light is for the toads. Those that cannot see it will not return. So far, the data seems to support that hypothesis.
Whether my data is publishable or not, the experience has changed me as a person, for the better. I cannot yet say how this change will translate upon my return, but I know now that my thought of the people and places around me will have been altered. Living in a new culture, a new life has caused me to newly appreciate others and understand them, as well as myself. Studying abroad gave me the opportunity to meet the world and in it find opportunities of a lifetime.