Becca in Cuicocha, the lake in the crater of a volcano
My time spent in Ecuador (Quito, Otavalo, Tiputini Biodiversity Station and the Galápagos) was absolutely incredible. I will be talking about it to friends and family for years to come. In this program, all of my expectations were exceeded greatly. Firstly, the organization of the program was flawless. The orientation beforehand and during the first week taught all of us how to get around autonomously and safely immediately. We had the opportunity to get to know various parts of the capital city, and all of the supplemental activities (salsa classes, excursions to open-air markets) had great leadership. The directors of the program are extremely friendly, compassionate and always a constant presence in our daily lives on campus. Almost without saying, the only-Spanish speaking policy helped all of us increase our abilities within the first month alone! In terms of the Nature/Culture program, actually taking the time during the program to go to places I have only ever seen in books or in documentaries is an earth-shattering experience that I will never forget. The guides that took us around the islands and the rain forest were so knowledgeable and good-humored, I would do it again in a heartbeat!! We saw monkeys, dolphins, swam with sea lions, sea turtles, sharks, penguins, and saw hundreds of fish and birds of all the colors in the spectrum. All of our experiences/activities ‘in the field,’ so to speak, were completely supplemented/complemented by classroom discussions, readings and lectures so that we really knew what we were seeing and where it all came from. My own personal understanding of the world (it’s history, cultures and evolution) and my own role in it is now forever deeper and on another level. This country is so old, and is still quite in touch with the ancient cultures… quite different from most parts of the United States today. I am still in awe and forever thankful that I decided on this abroad program and not others… Where else could you visit tropical islands, a pristine rain forest, the snow-topped volcano mountains and the beach all in one trip??
My only recommendations for those who will do this program are that they hang out as much as you can with LOCAL ECUADORIANS and try to avoid hanging out with just the kids from the program… Be adventurous, don’t be shy — practice the Salsa they teach you and you can leave quite good at it! Your language skills will improve exponentially faster and you will leave speaking much more ‘cleanly’ (without little American-isms) and with a deeper lasting impression of the local culture. I also suggest you ask your host family or friends to teach you to make some local dishes (the soups are incredible!) so when you get back you can have a ‘re-immersion party’ and can cook some food for friends/family when you show them your photos! (Oh, and by the way, the photo opportunities will be profuse and INCREDIBLE.) If you can, try to stay a little later to travel to other parts of the country, because in the program you won’t be able to wander too far… Go to the hot springs, and climb volcano they take you too. That way, you will truly understand that in this small country, there is a whole diverse and expressive world in itself.
Rebecca O’Brien, Class of ’09
Lauren and a view of Quito from the Teleferico
My summer experience in Ecuador was unforgettable. I learned so much about the culture, food, and just about living life in another country. The program in Quito was structured in such a way as to fully maximize your experience during the program. All of the classes and excursions, including those to Otavalo and Cotopaxi, were both fun and rewarding. Also, living with the host families and only being able to speak Spanish the entire time was, to me, an essential part of the program. I know I greatly improved my language skills, and I will always remember some of the incredible times spent with my host mom cooking, visiting family, or just chatting into the night. Lastly, I am so happy of my decision to be a part of the Food/Culture program. The two weeklong practicum sessions with the highly skilled chefs from all over the world instructing us on different kinds of Latin American cuisines provided an opportunity that I will probably never be able to recreate. I wish I could go back to visit all of the people I met, the places I explored, and again take part in the culture and society I grew to know and love.
Lauren Von der Ahe
“I chose the Food and Culture course because learning about Latin-American cuisine and learning how to cook was a really rare opportunity for me. I come from a family that doesn’t have a great track record in the kitchen. It’s a big deal when we decide to actually make the dessert for Thanksgiving dinner instead of swinging by Marie Callender’s. For me, this course was more than I could’ve imagined. We started with the basics: how to hold the knife, the different cuts, the different methods of concoction, and the kitchen hierarchy; and graduated with our heads filled with complicated recipes from the best cuisines in Latin-American. The whole gastronomy department was extremely patient, knowledgeable, friendly, and eager to teach us. With this practical experience paralleled with the theoretical element in the classroom, we learned how food plays such an integral role in the culture and in the identity of a nation. I leave the program with a solid understanding of this relationship, a confidence in the kitchen, and a new recipe for Thanksgiving dinner.”
I’ve always heard studying abroad is one of the best experiences of your life. I never took that idea too seriously until I participated in the Ecuador Summer Program. For seven weeks I was able to learn a culture, language, and country. It seems a little overwhelming and scary to live with a family abroad for two months, but that worry quickly goes away. You live and breathe another culture through the perspective of the Ecuadorians. Through the immersion experience, I not only learned a lot about the language, but also about myself. You will develop personally through this experience which is truly priceless. This program taught me so much and truly was one of the best experiences of my life.
The Oral Review group: Elizabeth , Chris, Laura, Helen and the marvelous teacher Claudia Gutierrez
Spending my summer studying abroad in Quito was the best experience of my life. While our group traveled to many amazing places, such as Tiputini and the Galapagos Islands, my favorite memory of the trip is the precious time I spent with my host family. I lived with a mother, grandmother, and three daughters, and they welcomed me into their family so warmly that I felt like another daughter. Whether we were eating delicious, home-cooked meals, watching TV, going shopping, or playing in the park, we always enjoyed spending time together and comparing stories about the US and Ecuador. Even now, two months after my return, we communicate by email weekly, and I hope to visit them again someday.
My summer in Ecuador was one of the most edifying experiences of my life. Almost immediately upon arrival I felt immersed and integrated into the culture, language, nature, politics, art and every spectrum of Ecuadorian society. The Georgetown Program granted me the opportunity to not only become fluent in the Spanish language, but to leave Ecuador with a broader, richer anthropologic and international perspective, life-long friends, and a wealth of knowledge and exposure to the dynamics of the country and its citizens through the classes, my home-stay family, and the travel experiences. Whenever I think of my time in Ecuador, I find myself reliving all the fun and unforgettable memories and realizing how much I grew as a person during those six weeks. I can’t say enough about this program; it’s by far the best decision I’ve ever made, and has left me with an indelible impression that can only be described as extraordinary.
¡Gracias por todo!
For me, the best part of the program was traveling. Every place we went to was incredible and often the ride there was the most beautiful part. It is true that Ecuador is a “gem” for foreign students because there is so much diversity in a small space (but beware of directions—a short distance does not necessarily correlate to a short trip). Our fabulous group made the bus rides infinitely more entertaining and our broken Spanish gradually developed into many interesting conversations. When I returned to the U.S., I felt like I had been traveling the world for years but at the same time, the summer flew by in minutes! The friends I made, the language skills I developed, and the traveling wisdom I acquired made Ecuador the most fulfilling summer I’ve ever had.
Let me start by saying that, although it was amazing, Ecuador wasn’t always easy. It wasn’t a summer on the beach working on our tans reading trashy novels. But I promise you, it was a lot better. Every day was another adventure (or more likely several adventures). One day I got very lost on the bus system (entirely my fault) and spent two hours exploring the various bus routes; thanks to that mishap I got to know the city much better. In the rainforest, we caught piranhas one afternoon, ate lemon ants while hiking the next morning, and played a very intense game of muddy soccer on the last night. One weekend, we climbed up the most beautiful mountain I have ever seen, which also happens to be the point farthest from the equator in the entire world and the hardest trek I have ever encountered. In the Galapagos, we went snorkeling every day, wandered islands inhabited only by wild animals, and got very sunburned. My last night in Quito, I went to the movies with my host uncle and his five year-old son and ended up having a three hour discussion in a McDonald’s on the Ecuadorian perception of Americans. The best part was we did all of this in Spanish. We made friends, did homework, ate dinner, got lost, dreamed, all of it in Spanish.
Since returning, I’ve changed many of my habits and preferences because of what I experienced in Quito. Every day I think back to our trip and compare my life there to my life here. The other students of the trip are now some of my best friends here in Georgetown. And with embarrassing regularity, I interject Ecuadorian phrases into my (English) conversations. ¡Qué chévere!
Adriana with three young Otavaleñas
Participating in the Summer Program in Quito, Ecuador was a great decision and an amazing experience. I believe one can see the beauty of the city, and of the country, only by looking at pictures, but in order to get a full appreciation for what Ecuador truly is, one must live there even if for a short period of time. I participated in the Food and Culture Program which combined history, science and culture with culinary art in an innovative way that allowed me to make a connection between two things I never tried to connect before. Consequently, I not only learned something new about two factors that are of paramount importance in every society, but I fell in love with the country, the people and the culture of Ecuador, in a deeper way that only an organized academic program could make possible