Adventures after Graduation
The snow crunched underfoot as I hiked back over the last stretch of the glacier. I paused to unzip my parka; the bright sun was high in the pure blue sky, and it was nearing five degrees Celsius — downright hot for an Antarctic summer. I could hear the trumpeting calls of the Adélie penguins in the distance, but it wasn’t until I got closer to the colony that I saw what everyone was so excited about: downy grey chicks, cushioned beneath their protective parents. Farther in the distance I could see other penguins swimming, exploding out of the water like miniature killer whales as they porpoised back to shore. This was our last landing along the Antarctic peninsula, and the final day of this journey certainly did not disappoint.
My name is Ellie and I am an Arts ’08 alumna. I first started traveling in high school, continued doing so throughout my time at Queen’s, and never really stopped once I graduated. For me, travel has always been an important part of how I define myself. Exploring the world inspires lifelong learning, and that doesn’t need to end after you finish your semester abroad.
While I have travelled extensively throughout Central America, Europe, and Japan, this year I got the incredible opportunity to go on a true adventure of a lifetime. Because of my love of travel, I have always enjoyed teaching my students about the world. As a teacher, I recognize the importance of expanding my students’ worldview and helping them develop their own senses of wonder and exploration. Although I knew applying to the National Geographic/Lindblad Expeditions Grosvenor Teacher Fellow program would be a long shot, I simply couldn’t pass up the opportunity to try.
That’s how I found myself, in December 2015, boarding a plane headed for Buenos Aires, the first stop on a long journey to the Antarctic peninsula. We then continued on to Ushuaia, Argentina, the southernmost city in the world, to board the National Geographic Explorer. We made our way out of the Beagle Channel and were soon crossing the Drake passage. As the seasickness passed, it became harder and harder to force myself to go to sleep each night. I wanted to make every moment count, and the nearly 24-hour sunlight made that easy to do.
One often experiences “firsts” while travelling, and this trip was no exception — we saw our first icebergs, watched our first penguins waddle, gasped at the sight of our first whales, hiked for the first time on the world’s most remote continent, and kayaked for the first time in serene polar waters. As world explorers, these “firsts” help us make sense of and better understand our everyday experiences back home. They help us step back and appreciate the profound beauty of our world, in an age where we can so often get wrapped up in the hustle and bustle of the everyday, and we return home from these incredible adventures forever changed.
Travelling doesn’t need to end after your exchange or graduation trip are over and you’ve entered the working world. Sure, you can always take some vacation time, but don’t get stuck at a desk and forget opportunities that may exist within your career. You never know what kinds of travel opportunities may exist in your own field, and the only way to find out is to go exploring and look for them. Although I never imagined when I became a teacher that my career would help take me to the ends of the earth, now that I know it, there’s no turning back.