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From left, CU students Jane Stewart, Rachel Hagopian, Emily Kryska, Seth Colter, Jessi Abraham, Megan Shay and Shannon Lowry pose with Amazonian Indians after a tribal ritual and dance.
From left, CU students Jane Stewart, Rachel Hagopian, Emily Kryska, Seth Colter, Jessi Abraham, Megan Shay and Shannon Lowry pose with Amazonian Indians after a tribal ritual and dance.

BOULDER, Colo. –

A trek into an unfamiliar wilderness has been transformed into an immediate sensory experience, thanks to a handful of intrepid University of Colorado students.

A multimedia re-creation of the journey that took nine CU students deep into the heart of the Amazon River Basin will be presented from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday in Room 102 of the Fleming Law building.

Hundreds of images and audio clips captured by the art and art history students who experienced the vastness of the Amazonian rain forest firsthand will be featured during the free presentation.

“Seeing the Amazon jungle through both our eyes and our ears gave a whole new perspective to the place,” said senior Jenny Bolch. “The jungle is filled with such a huge variety of sights and sounds that it was beautiful and overwhelming.”

After qualifying in January for a $3,000 grant from CU’s Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program, professor George Rivera organized the trip to Leticia, Colombia, which is located at the southernmost tip of the country, on the banks of the Amazon River.

The six-day expedition occurred during CU’s spring break, and tasked the students with two main objectives.

First, they were to promote and present their artwork in a contemporary art exhibit at the National University of Colombia. According to Rivera, it’s important to socialize art students into the professional side of art exhibits rather than limit them to the art halls of their own universities — and the students relished the high-profile experience.

“We were able to exhibit internationally as undergraduate and graduate students, which is a huge confidence boost and resume builder,” Bolch said.

The second goal of the trip was more research-oriented, as it required the students to venture into the indigenous lands and villages of the south Colombian Amazon to record the natural audio of the cultural landscapes for “sound art” projects.

“We got to interact with a lot of different people,” senior Rachel Hagopian said. “We went to a tribal ritual where they were playing drums and recorded the sound of the drums.”

Bolch also recalled a memorable experience that happened while recording Amazonian river sounds during a kayak tour.

“In an attempt to capture some of the sounds, we all tried to stay quiet for a few minutes and, during that time, the whole jungle closed in on us and filled us up with wonder,” Bolch said. “We barely spoke for the rest of the ride because we were so in awe.”

According to Rivera, it is these unique and profound experiences that make studying abroad such an important part of the educational process.

“Trips like this are an integral part of educating students at CU,” he said. “Moving them away from the Boulder scene and into the international context of understanding other peoples of the world should be a priority in funding.”

The $3,000 grant used to help pay for this trip, for example, was enough to cover the students’ lodging, food and transportation — but not airfare, which Rivera described as a “significant” expense.

For the hundreds of other students who would have also jumped at the opportunity for this brief study-abroad excursion, Rivera thinks that today’s exhibit will offer as good of a substitute as one can get.

“I hope that the public comes to this free event,” he said. “I think they’ll see something that is a rarity and an important part of the world . . . it’s an indirect way of experiencing the Amazon and talking to people who went there.”

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