¿Comelibros o Parrandero?

Literally translated as “book eater,” comelibros means “nerd” in Ecuadorian Spanish.

On the other hand, parrandero means “party-animal.”

This particular post is about my comelibros-life in Ecuador.

Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador (PUCE), La Católica, La Cato, La U

Yesterday during one of my classes, our professor said we were going to do a review of themes in our class & he asked us what questions we had. As we sat in on-and-off, somewhat uncomfortable silence for several minutes he announced, “OK, les invito a algunas colas abajo” (OK, I’ll treat you to some Coca-Cola in the cafeteria downstairs). Even though I had a midterm the next day, it is rude to turn down an invitation in Ecuador. Not to mention I am always up for freebies.

This anecdote is not overwhelmingly common here, but it does peek into the differences between my home university of UCSD and my current university of La Católica.

UCSD is a massive public school in terms of people and space: classes are large and so is the campus. On the other hand, La Católica is only a few thousand students and is, of course, Catholic. My classes are much smaller and range from 3 students to 30. In UCSD, I have had classes as big as 400. At La Católica you enter into your Carrera (major) from day one with the other novatas (first-year students). Not surprisingly, there are a lot of close friendships within classes because (assuming you don’t fail classes), the classmates you start out with are the classmates you graduate with. On that note, it is also not too uncommon to fail a class, whereas in the U.S. academic system there can be grave consequences.

I have all my 5 classes in La Católica and they are:

  • Social Processes and Politics of Ecuador
  • International Relations of Latin America
  • Psychology of the Family
  • Psychology of Sexuality
  • Colonial History of Ecuador

Even though my host parents & the IES staff are convinced I am puro parrandero, my real parents would be happy to know that I’m actually much more studious this semester. So much so that I’ve been called a comelibros on occasion. I’ve really taken a liking to my classes and professors, especially as I’ve pointed out above, it is much easier to get to know professors in La Católica since classes are so tiny.

It has been challenging with having all my classes in La Católica (in Spanish) but it has been extremely rewarding at the same time.

For my Psychology of Sexuality class we have done many lab reports based on surveys, and my future assignments consist of constructing educational campaigns and workshops to educate the public, as well as one large, hands-on research project which I plan to focus on prostitution in Ecuador (last semester for an IES class I did a project regarding this topic, of which I am hoping to continue researching).

For my International Relations of Latin America class, my final project will consist of going to the province of Esmeraldas (Coastal province with a majority Afro-descendent population) and interviewing Peace Corps volunteers to understand and analyze the challenges and successes of development projects in this region.

The main thing that really impresses me about this university is how seriously they take hands-on learning. Every student who graduates is required to do a thesis of some 70+ pages that includes interviews and surveys. The students here are much more serious and don’t take their education for granted. Almost every student has a class at 7am & fugar–a word I’ve come to know and love–slang for ditching–is not nearly as common. At UCSD rolling out of my bed to get to class at 10am seemed to be the most difficult task in the world, and I lived on campus!

One of my good friends here, Cristina, told me “Mi carrera de Sociología de Desarrollo es hermosa” (My Sociology of Development major is beautiful). It’s really inspiring to see students care so much about their studies.

El Parque Central