Patrick Garrett grew up a block from the College but didn’t dream of attending, much less traveling to Ecuador as a Wabash student. His son will know a bigger world.
“I grew up never really caring about getting to know the world outside of Crawfordsville,” sophomore Patrick Garrett wrote in his online blog for the Summer Study in Ecuador program. “Throughout my childhood I would catch snakes and turtles along the banks of Sugar Creek, letting my love and knowledge of nature grow. In fact, I got so comfortable with Crawfordsville that I never left.” And though he grew up a block from the College, Garrett never imagined himself as a Wabash student. No one in his family had attended college, and he assumed higher education was out of reach. His early high-school grades were mediocre, but they skyrocketed along with his desire to learn when he took biology and other science classes. He made the waiting list at Wabash his senior year. His mother cried when he received the letter—not because he hadn’t gotten in, but because he’d gotten closer than she had believed possible.
He enrolled at Indiana State University that semester with hopes of proving himself ready for Wabash, but there were other challenges. In November he became a father and began juggling his studies while helping his girlfriend care for their newborn son, Myca.
He was overjoyed to enter Wabash with the Class of 2012. He felt the world was opening up to him.
“About the time I applied at Wabash, I was beginning to realize how much I was missing out on by not traveling and learning more about my culture and the cultures of others,” Garrett says.
He also understood that with his time and budgetary constraints, international travel was unlikely.
Last spring he was accepted for the 2009 Summer Study in Ecuador. Traveling from Indianapolis to Quito was his first time flying, and only the second time he’d been out of the state of Indiana. The kids in Quito were the first students he’d taught in a classroom.
“Although it is hard, I really enjoy it,” Garrett wrote. “I didn’t have any idea what I was doing, so I just got in the middle of the group and put myself out there. It reminded me of how I am with Myca. It was so cool to see the students enjoying it. They were engaged and excited to learn.
“To me this was an example of what it means to be a Wabash man. Until now, I couldn’t quite grasp the College’s mission statement. But now I get it. It’s something that has to be lived and experienced, and that is what I am doing!”
Garrett had the most fun near the end of the trip when the group visited the Agua Blanca nature preserve and La Isla de la Plata, nicknamed “the poor man’s Galapagos Islands.”
“I was witnessing the incredible diversity of life I had spent the last two semesters studying in my intro biology courses, and I was loving it,” Garrett wrote, concluding his online blog. “Wabash opened the door for me to have one of the most interesting and fulfilling experiences of my life, despite my financial and familial obligations. I am so thankful to all who made this possible.”
Soon after he returned to Crawfordsville, Garrett took his son to play along the banks of Sugar Creek.
“I told Myca how much I missed him and his mom, and I tried to describe all the animals I’d seen,” Garrett recalls. “I told him that someday he’ll see them, too, and that I hope his mom and I will be with him.”