From Auburn to Bhutan and back again
Bhutan may not make the list of top 10 vacation spots for your average person, but that didn’t stop one Auburn native from making the long journey to a remote country for science.
Known mostly for its rich history and culture, the small, landlocked country in the eastern Himalayas offered a rare opportunity for horticulture and forestry student Elizabeth Ridolfi.
The 21-year-old UC Davis student, majoring in environmental horticulture and urban forestry, made the long journey to the southern Asian country to study as part of a School for Field Studies summer program.
Monsoon season or not, Ridolfi and 18 others spent six weeks meeting new people and studying the unique plant and animal life of the diverse region.
“It’s not like studying abroad in Italy or Mexico,” she said. “In Bhutan, pretty much all of the plants and animals are endemic.”
At an average elevation of around 8,000 feet, the country is a mix of dense rainforests and mountains. Despite its current standing as a developing nation, Ridolfi said in her experience, the literacy rate supersedes crime by a huge margin.
The government is also very protective of its natural resources, even with outside pressures from the surrounding more industrialized nations, she said.
“Not a lot is written about Bhutan. Pretty much every experience you have, you can bet that not too many people have seen that,” Ridolfi said.
During her field research of human and wildlife conflict, the young researcher was able to trek in the Himalayas and even had a run in with quicksand and a day’s worth of monsoon rains.
The trip cost around $12,000, but left her with the urge to travel the world. Without many of the modern research tools we largely take for granted in America, Ridolfi said she learned valuable lessons and would strongly encourage other students to study abroad.
“The big thing I took back is a desire to travel more. I also took back a lot of problem solving skills,” she said.
The third-year college student said she plans to graduate in 2016 and travel with volunteer organizations before pursuing her larger goal of graduate school.
“Who knows, I could end up going back to the tropics during monsoon season once again,” she joked.