The Monmouth College banner has been on the Galapagos Islands before through a biology study abroad trip, and it returned in June with staff member Kristy Krisher, who worked with local teens on career options

MONMOUTH, ILLINOIS (July 13, 2023) — As part of her doctoral studies — which will include a dissertation on the importance of internships for post-graduate employability — Monmouth College staff member Kristy Krisher participated in her own internship, working throughout the month of June with high-school children on the Galapagos Islands.

"I met with about thirty tenth-, eleventh-, and twelfth-graders, focusing on career development," said Krisher, who serves as the College's associate director of employer relations and internship development. "The students who live on the islands live in a bubble — very much so. There are many of them who want to leave the islands, but they hadn't really figured out what that looked like, and I helped them start to think about that."

About 40% of the classes taught at the K-12 school where Krisher was stationed on the archipelago of volcanic islands in the Eastern Pacific are taught in English, and that included Krisher's sessions. No language was spoken at all during one of her students' favorite activities, which was attempting to act out certain professions.

"The jobs they know are tour guides, drivers, restaurant owners — things like that from the island," said Krisher. "I learned they had some misconceptions about other jobs, such as what's the difference between a judge and a policeman."

While helping Galapagos teens realize the opportunities available to them beyond their bubble, Krisher also had plenty of chances to experience life inside the bubble, especially all the endemic wildlife, such as giant turtles and iguanas.

The turtles on the Galapagos Islands are shockingly big, and shockingly old, too, said Krisher, who said the species can live to be 200 years old

"I kayaked in the ocean with sea lions, and I swam with giant sea turtles, manta rays, stingrays and sharks," she said. "I've traveled a lot, and it was definitely the most unique place I've ever been."

Adapting to change

Charles Darwin helped put the Galapagos Islands on the map with his research there in the 1800s, and Krisher believes the evolutionary biologist was on to something with his famous quote: "It is not the strongest of the species that survives, not the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change."

"That captures not only my experience, but our students' experience in college and in life," said Krisher, who is relying heavily on Monmouth student internships for her doctoral research at the University of Illinois, where she is pursuing a PhD in education with a concentration on human resources.

She has plenty of data at her fingertips, as the College's most recent First Destination Survey showed that 89% of the Monmouth Class of 2022 had at least one internship during their time on campus.

"The things you learn from an internship are innumerable," said Krisher. "A lot of it is the soft skills of learning how to interact in a work environment and how to communicate — just adapting to those types of situations."

Krisher, too, had to adapt to change, starting with the climate and also including ever-present mosquitoes, gecko roommates in her apartment, and battling two weeks of illness.

"My classroom was in the actual, literal jungle," she said. "There were no doors or windows, and lots and lots of mosquitoes. I even swatted away birds while teaching. It was hard to find fresh water, and it was extremely hot. It was a very unique experience, but there were some challenges."

One of the unique wildlife highlights, she said, was seeing blue-footed boobies, a bird with stunningly blue feet.

"They're not phased by people at all," she said. "And since they have no real predators on the island, they build their nests right on the ground. And there were lots of different types of iguanas. In fact, they just discovered a new species about a month ago. The wildlife part of the trip was really fascinating."

Krisher sits on a swing overlooking Ecuador's capital city of Quito, which is located on the Equator

Krisher also spent time in Quito, the capital city of Ecuador of which the Galapagos are a province, and she straddled the spot called "The Middle of the Earth" on the Equator, allowing her to set foot in the planet's northern and southern hemispheres at the same time.

Back behind her desk in her air-conditioned office in Hewes Library, one could say Krisher is in her comfort zone. But thanks to her time on the Galapagos Islands, she can also explain to students even better the importance of stepping outside their comfort zones, applying for and securing the types of work experiences that may eventually lead to their future careers.

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