One of my favorite things about studying abroad- and one of the things I’ll miss most after I leave- is speaking Spanish every day. Whether I am at IES Abroad, in class at Católica, at my internship, traveling, at home or just walking around Quito I am constantly hearing, speaking and writing in Spanish. It’s not only the fact that I get to improve my fluency in the language, but what is also important to me is that I am exposed to a different perspective of life. Interacting with locals here is incomparable to interacting with locals in my small college’s town, Bryn Mawr; spending time with the Jewish community here is a unique experience compared to spending time with the Jewish community that I grew up with; family time in Ecuador has a different feel than family time back in New York. Interaction in Ecuador is a huge part of my study abroad experience, and it has greatly added to what I have learned this semester.
Exposure to all things unfamiliar while studying in a foreign country only pushes me to wonder everything about everyone around me. I am curious about everyone’s backgrounds, thoughts and beliefs, values and goals in life. Particularly in a country that is so diverse, Ecuador provides many opportunities for different types of interactions which allow me to gain a better idea about Ecuadorian society. Each interaction is so unique and memorable; intercultural communication truly is a huge part of my study abroad experience. Everything from the store clerk at OkiDoki (a convenience store chain) asking for my friend’s cell phone number to a woman on the bus asking me for a sip from my water bottle for her daughter, each day comes with unexpected interactions with both Ecuadorians and other foreigners.
The woman who owns the small store next to IES Abroad refers to me as “mi hija” (my daughter); each classmate in my Católica class kisses me hello before the start of class; each elevator I step into, I am always greeted by everyone already in it, as well as left with a goodbye of “hasta luego” (see you later); not a day goes by without experiencing cat calls from construction workers, building guards and people driving by. It is during this semester where I have experienced uniqueness and variety in my interactions with others, so very unlike the interactions I have daily back home or at my university. I constantly find myself in conversations with Ecuadorian friends and my home stay family about societal and cultural differences between the US and Ecuador. I also find myself thinking about the connections I’ve made with Ecuadorians and how my perspective of our connection may differ from their perspective. Through this cultural experience, I have not only expanded my perception of others’ daily lives in other countries, but also of my views of my own home town and country. I will continue to experience this for my last month here and I know I will also take what I have learned home with me. The long term impact is what makes living and studying abroad such an important and unique experience, particularly during my time in college.
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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>