Exploring ecotourism in Chile

One important task of the College of Forestry’s Office of International Programs is connecting Oregon State students with hands-on learning experiences abroad. This includes internships that provide educational opportunities and practical experience for students.

Shelby Knight, a natural resources student at Oregon State University-Cascades in Bend, gained all of this and more during an internship experience in Chile.

“From a professional-development perspective, I learned how to better navigate language and cultural barriers. I improved my understanding and use of the Spanish language and learned about the Chilean culture.”

Growing up in Central Oregon, Knight fell in love with natural resources, but was never sure exactly what she wanted to pursue as a field of study or career.

“I love that the natural resources major is broad, diverse and offers opportunities to explore different aspects of the natural sciences,” she says. “Since coming to OSU Cascades, I’ve become interested in the interface between humans, human development and ecosystems.”

Through her involvement in the Natural Sciences Club at OSU Cascades, Knight met other students who participated in study abroad opportunities.

“I had no idea that this was even a possibility for me as a Cascades student, and I began to look for opportunities to go abroad through OSU,” Knight says.

She found and applied for a short term, faculty-led study abroad opportunity in Chile. During the application process, she learned about the option to stay behind after the experience to complete an internship.

“I loved the idea of staying in Chile for a longer period of time,” she says. “I chose to intern with Huilo Huilo Biological Reserve because they had a relationship with OSU, and their eco-tourism and conservation model really interested me. Plus, it looked like the most beautiful place to spend two months – and it was.”

Knight worked in the excursions department of the biological reserve where she helped deliver environmental, cultural and outdoor education to guests. She also tracked and mapped ‘illegal’ trails within the reserve, assisting Huilo Huilo with their trail interpretation plan, which will help the organization develop replanting and recovery strategies for illegal trails.

Knight also helped develop a nature-driven children’s program for the Reserve’s called Los Pequeños Exploradores or The Tiny Explorers. This experience inspired Knight to pursue research abroad after graduation.

“I learned a lot about myself by entering an unfamiliar situation,” she says. “I can’t wait to keep learning and exploring.”

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