According to the trusty ole Wikipedia website study abroad is defined as “the act of a student pursuing educational opportunities in a country other than one’s own.” Since hearing about my travel experiences and my day to day life in Ecuador several people back at home have asked me if I have ever actually done any studying during my semester abroad. So I decided that it was time to write a blog post talking about academics here in Quito. To sum it up studying in Quito has a very different meaning than studying back in the United States at Villanova.
For my program I am enrolled in three classes and am participating in a service learning internship. I am taking two classes at my study abroad center, which are taught by local professors in Spanish with all other American students. These classes are: an anthropology cultural diversity of Ecuador course, and an advanced Spanish language class. My third class is a sustainable development class at a local university with other Ecuadorian students in which I am the only foreign exchange student in the class. [The first day walking into class I got so many stares and people looking at me; it was like you would think that they had never seen a Gringo before]. And lastly I have a service learning internship with an organization called Extreme Response, in which I work at a daycare center for the children of the families that work sorting trash in the local dump. Overall, my course load and academic experience has been very different during my time abroad than back at school. Not only are my classes very different in terms of subject material, but so is the work load and the academic environment.
During a normal semester back in the states I am used to juggling a million things all at once. Between extracurricular activities and my homework load, my days are normally packed from start to finish. In Ecuador, I do have homework, and I am learning from my classes but everything is at a much slower pace. [Although part of the reason it is a slower academic environment is because I am studying abroad. I know some Ecuadorian students that take up to 10 classes a semester and spend a great deal of time studying]. My course load and classes here are so different that studying and learning have very different meanings and come about in very different ways than back in the states.
I can honestly say that I have learned as much throughout my time in Ecuador as I would have in a normal semester at home, but it is a different type of learning. I have learned to confidently navigate Quito by walking, taking taxis, and the local bus system. I have learned about myself by being away from everyone that I know and gained confidence in living in a foreign city on my own. I am learning about a different culture by living with a host family and immersing myself in the language and the nuances that make up day to day life here. And I am constantly learning and improving my Spanish language skills simply by walking out the door every morning. Yes, I have learned important material in my classes, but instead of viewing my classes as my main source of education, it is outside of the classroom that I have truly learned. Just living here is a learning experience, and the topics that I learn in my classes help me better understand life in Ecuador through discussions about history, politics, and the environment.
So yes, looking at all of the pictures and the places that I have traveled throughout the country make it seem like I am not really doing any studying during my time studying abroad but I can guarantee you that I am learning lessons and gaining knowledge that will prove to be useful years to come and will forever shape the person that I am. Also, I promise you that I am doing some studying; in fact I have a midterm tomorrow that after finishing this blog post I am going to do some more studying for.
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<p>I am a junior Environmental Science Major with a Peace and Justice Concentration and Spanish minor at Villanova University. I love backpacking, traveling and new adventures. I am so excited to be spending the semester in Quito, Ecuador and I hope that these posts will help you experience the culture and beauty of life in South America through my eyes.</p>