Name: Kayleigh Kavanagh
Hometown: Shorewood, Wisconsin
Varsity sport participated in: Women's Lacrosse
Study abroad semester and location: Spring 2014 in Quito and Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
What was your proudest/most exciting moment abroad?
Being the first to see a juvenile lava flow! My last weeks in Ecuador were spent researching Volcán Tungurahua, one of the most active volcanoes in the Andes. In the beginning of April there was an eruption, and two weeks later I was climbing up the same flank with a classmate and our professor with the goal of finding the new flow. It was so foggy that we could not see more than 30 meters in any direction, and since we did not even know if we were in the right valley it was rough going. We ended climbing past 3,500 meters above sea level, at which point it is gets hard to breathe (especially after spending a few months at sea level in the Galápagos). Finally, right as we were deciding not to go further, the clouds parted, and there it was! I have never been happier for a gust of wind.
How were you able to get involved with your host culture while abroad?
Mostly through cooking. In particular, I spent a lot of time in the kitchen with my host grandma in Quito. In the beginning our conversations were mostly centered around types of food (and tons of new kitchen vocabulary), but as I grew to know the recipes our conversations expanded. We talked about the president, how to change her email password, family structure, the best museums in Quito, and just about everything in between. It was a wonderful way to both learn to cook delicious Ecuadorian food and get a new perspective on Ecuadorian life.
How were you able to stay in shape or stay prepared for your sport while you were gone?
Nobody in Ecuador plays lacrosse, but everyone loves fútbol! My host dad would take me with him to pick up soccer a couple times a week. Everyone was really competitive, which was a little intimidating (as was playing with a size 3 ball on a concrete court), but it ended up being one of my favorite parts of the week.
Has the time you spent abroad changed the way you think about your athletic experience or your sport in general?
Being abroad made me realize how invested in my team's success, whether I am playing with them or not. Last spring I was able to play in every one of our games, and of course I wanted to win every one of them. I was surprised to find that even in Ecuador I wanted to win just as badly, even if I was nowhere near the field.
Some words of advice for other athletes who want to study abroad:
Having the opportunity to be a part of another culture, to speak another language, and live in a new environment was life changing in a way I never expected it to be. So if you need to miss a season of competition to study abroad, do it. It can be intimidating to step away from your sport for a semester, but if you don't you will miss out on one of the most incredible experiences available to you through Beloit.