By Anna Šverclová ’24
Last spring, I spent four months on Isla San Cristóbal, the capital island in the Galápagos archipelago. Though a program in environmental science often seemed hardly relevant to my creative writing major (thanks to COVID, a last minute switch), I found that being in an environment where there wasn’t a huge wealth of (published, non-scientific) literature made writing feel like a free-for-all. Often during class field trips, one of the naturalist guides would spill a fact about the ecosystem, and it would be a metaphor so obvious it felt borderline dirty to use. For example: on the Galápagos islands, there is a tree called Manzanillo, or The Poison Apple Tree. My first day on the San Cristóbal, I was sitting on Playa Mann when one of the apples fell on my head from the tree above me. It smelled delicious, almost artificially so, like Suave Kids Green Apple Detangler. I remember telling my horticulturist friend, “anything that smells this good couldn’t possibly be poisonous!” Then, the very next day, we had a lecture in class about that very tree, including how even touching the leaves can give you “severe blisters.”
I still refuse to write a poem about this definitionally low-hanging fruit. But the biggest takeaway I got from this experience was that any place can be a fitting study abroad for an English major, so long as you bring 9 books in your suitcase and can motivate yourself to write!