Student Research Woes

Photo on 2013-07-11 at 09.41

Look at how much I love research. Isn’t it evident on every part of that lovely mug? (Now maybe I can understand why my host family keeps telling me to put on more make-up . . . ) In case  that didn’t convince you, I took another showing my face as I face finishing the writing portion of my research study:

Photo on 2013-07-11 at 09.42 #2

As I mentioned last week, I’ve finally finished the research portion of the study I’m doing here in Ecuador in Parque Nacional Sangay. But that doesn’t mean I’ve finished writing the darn thing, and this has proved to be the most challenging, as it is basically a big study on tourism in my area and a diagnosis of why  the development of a trail where my supervisor wants to put the trail is just a bad idea. I’ve written about 20 pages (in Spanish, mind you! I may or may not be including the bibliography and appendices in that count) and anticipate the final study to be about 30+ pages all told with nice graphs and pretty pictures. I was sick from food poisoning Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday, so this week I haven’t been able to accomplish quite as much as I would have hoped, but I’m trudging forward.

In fairness, this is also my face doing research, just when I’m out and about.


There are just different components to it, some of which I like, some of which I don’t. Hint: I like the parts where I’m outside, interviewing folks and doing site diagnosis (also known as hiking). I less like the inside-on-my-computer-why-are-there-so-many-articles-in-this-world parts.

While I’ve done pretty comprehensive research projects at school (perks of being a Sustainability Science major at a liberal arts university) and was a research assistant for a professor last year, this is my first experience really doing research in the field. I realized a few months before I left how little experience I really have, and my face looked a bit like that first photo. And you know, my first experience doing research has been tough. It has been a great period of vocational discovery for me (much more on that in a later post), but it has also been hard and characterized by a much more relaxed, stereotypical Latin American approach.

When I first got here to Ecuador, I didn’t even know what I was doing for the first week. My supervisor just kept telling me to rest and that we would start soon! His wife, a former Peace Corps volunteer, tried to prepare me for the summer by telling me that ‘things move at a different pace here.’ The expectation for me has really been on more of a graduate level–I’ve risen to the challenge, but some more guidance (and even seeing my supervisor every day) would’ve been nice. After I figured out what the basic project was (a study on the feasibility of a trail), I would ask my supervisor pointed questions to lead the research. His response was always ‘what do you see for the project?’ Um, what? Seeing as I lack the contacts, transportation, and general knowledge of the area a bit more guidance would have been nice. Nevertheless, I figured it out.

After I first saw the site (actually, after I spent nine hours walking through mud and rain and emerged dehydrated with 18 thorns in my hands) I realized this trail site wouldn’t work. After telling my supervisor this, I asked him what other options I have to work on while I’m here. ‘You know.’ Wait, I know about other projects? I’m so upset I’ve been keeping that information from myself! I asked for clarification, to which he produced the tourist brochure I received my first day in town. When I went, one by one, through each tourist offering I received the same response–‘we can’t work on those because they’re on private land.’

After a second recorrido of a slightly different trail (actually, the same trail to a different point) and talking to my hiking mates and the park rangers I came to the same conclusion: this site doesn’t make sense for trail development. The day after having that conversation with my supervisor, he sent me a brochure from the Ecuadorian government detailing funding for environmental projects. ‘Do you think we can get this funding for the trail?’ If we don’t use the study I’m doing that says to not develop a trail, then maybe? This morning we had that conversation. Again. 

A learning experience in the process of doing research, experiencing the inner workings of a local government, and seeing the way projects are realized in another cultural setting 😉

 I’m almost done with the write-up, and it will be a thing of beauty. Now I just have to finish . . .

This entry was published on July 11, 2013 at 8:44 pm. It’s filed under Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

8 thoughts on “Student Research Woes

  1. Sounds like a great learning experience. Whats next after this ?

  2. travellingchameleon122 on said:

    #studentproblems haha good luck 🙂

  3. So I have to say that you are amazing! I loved your comment on my recent post so much that I wanted to come and check out what you’ve written. If I am being totally honest I love writing my blog but I am really about about going and actually reading other peoples; but yours is one that I am totally addicted to now.

    I’ve gone through and read like your three most recent post and you’re wit and humor is so perfect. I also really like reading about your time in a different country because I am going to England for a year soon and while the culture shock won’t be like going from America to Ecuador I thinking that there will still be some differences.

    I love your post. Also, you’ll have to write all about Spain since I’m thinking of going and visiting Madrid while I’m in England for the year.

    • Oh my goodness! Thank you so much for your kind words of encouragement, they mean so very much to me! I will be writing all about Spain and you should DEFINITELY visit while you’re in England! While I haven’t been yet I’ve heard that it is amazing 🙂 I can’t wait to hear about your travels and experiences in England.

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