A Reflection: Being Grateful For My Experiences Abroad

Dana Waddell
Major: Behavioral Science Major
Program: Spanish in Quito,Ecuador

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An indigenous village in Puyo, Ecuador.

My time in Ecuador has impacted my life in numerous ways. I was completely immersed in the Ecuadorian culture the minute I was welcomed by my host family at the airport. They welcomed me with open arms and I spent a great amount of time my first night just simply getting to know the family, and I knew immediately I was going to have a great host family. Personally, my host family was a huge aspect of my study abroad trip. They introduced me to traditional Ecuadorian food, customs, and hugely impacted my language skills. This experience as a whole allowed me to grow in all aspects and it allowed me to create a deeper connection with the Spanish language.

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A photo of Dana holding her first boa constrictor.

I took two Spanish courses while abroad; Composition and Conversation. Taking these classes abroad was one of the best decisions I have made, because we were allowed to focus the topics on Ecuador, South America, and the world as a whole, plus it follows different topics than if I were to take this in the states. My perspective on the world has completely altered because of the combination of the topics we learned about in our courses, such as governmental structures, the environment, and cultural differences around the world. This information had a large effect along with my experiences living in Ecuador. I was most effected by the number of Venezuelans that were living on the streets because of the situation occurring in their country. Over my seven weeks in Ecuador I learned a great amount of the corruption occurring in Venezuela and it forced me to take a step back to reflect on my own life. My mind has now been expanded in ways it would not have if I did not study abroad in Ecuador.

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A photo of Dana sitting in a hammock that overlooks the beautiful nearby jungle.

Over my seven weeks abroad I was able to travel all over the country. I was surprised to learn about how many different geographic areas I could experience in one country alone. Ecuador has four different regions such as mountain ranges, coastal areas, jungles and the Galapagos Islands, which I had the opportunity to experience every area the country offers. Outside of the program, I took trips to Manta on the coast of Ecuador, to and island named San Cristóbal in Galapagos Islands and to a town named Puyo in the jungle. With the flexibility of the program and only having classes Monday through Thursday I was able to travel for a decent price on the weekends. Each area I went to offered a different cultural experience because they ranged in different foods, native people and geography.

A photo of Dana in her snorkel gear, holding a life preserver ring, after snorkeling with sharks for the first time.

Along with the three areas I traveled two outside of the program time, I was living in Quito, Ecuador which is a huge city in the mountain range. This in and of itself was a unique city because I had the opportunity to go to the city every day if I wanted, which was a short 20-minute ride by car or bus, and still had the connection to nature by being surrounded by the mountains. The geography of the country as a whole was what took my attention the most, even in the city I lived in with my host family. In Quito, I was able to go to a variety of museums and churches; experience the food of Ecuador at restaurants; visit mountains and volcanoes; and just be able to hike and explore. Overall, this experience opened up my eyes to a different way of life by completely immersing myself in another culture, which I will always be grateful for.


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