“And if travel is like love, it is, in the end, mostly because it’s a heightened state of awareness, in which we are mindful, receptive, undimmed by familiarity and ready to be transformed.” –Pico Iyer
Reflecting on my time here in Ecuador, I can’t help but think about how this semester is so much more than just study abroad. It is living abroad. Adventuring. Trying new things. Getting lost and finding your way. Everything is so unfamiliar abroad, that we are forced to look at the world, and at ourselves, from a different perspective. I am learning this slowly while in Ecuador. Each day is a new adventure, whether I plan it or not. This past week I adventured atop Pichincha Volcano, stayed overnight in Mindo, and spent time at Superar.
Pichincha Volcano: El TelefériQo (teleférico [cable car] + Quito) is about a ten minute cable car ride. From the top is a wonderful view of Quito; the juxtaposition of the mountains and the city is beautiful. Although the altitude makes for a cold and windy stay, it is quite the view for some great memories and photographs.
Mindo: Mindo is a little less than two hours north west of Quito, which makes for an easy overnight stay. The town itself is small and filled with vendors, restaurants, hostels and adventure-touring companies. The adventures we went on included hiking, rappelling and tubing. It was nice to spend time outside– away from noises and business of the city– even if it was only for one night. We had purchased tickets for a 5 pm bus back to Quito, and although we were getting tired by 3 pm, we enjoyed spending our remaining time in Mindo exploring the town further and relaxing in a small cafe.
Superar: Superar, which means “to overcome,” is a psychological center in Quito that serves children, adolescents and adults. Along with my Service Learning/Internship class I will be spending eight hours a week at Superar, working with the psychologists and their clients. On my first day I spent time with the children at a “taller vacacional” (a week-long workshop during their summer vacation). This workshop focuses on social and other important life skills, such as teamwork, sharing, and overcoming fears. Each day had different objectives, with games, activities, and art projects that emphasized those objectives for the children in a fun and relatable way. I am sure I gained just as much through practicing my Spanish as I did in applying my psychology studies.
This past week (as well as my other two weeks in Ecuador) definitely did encourage a heightened state of awareness and receptiveness. Through all the unfamiliarity, I am able to take in and fully enjoy my surroundings and everything I experience. Whether I was viewing Quito from a new perspective, traveling to a different part of Ecuador, or working hard at thinking about psychological concepts in Spanish, I definitely challenged my idea of “study abroad.” I am still somewhere in between missing home and school, enjoying my new and exciting environment of Quito, and feeling 100% settled in. However, it is my every day experiences (whether they are planned or not) that will continue to make my semester in Ecuador more than just study abroad.
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<div><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">My name is Alexandra Kohn and I am a junior at Bryn Mawr College. I am a psychology major with minors in child and family studies and Spanish. Outside of academics, I enjoy making art and spending time outside. I am particularly passionate about traveling and I am very excited to spend this semester in Ecuador!</span></div>