Believe it or not, in between my various excursions to Papallacta, up Pichincha and most recently around Quilotoa (as well as many others), I also attend classes. My favorite class – Spanish – is taught by an incredibly caring and exuberant professor. While technically a grammar class, the emphasis is on oral fluency and with such a small class size (there are only 4 of us!) we spend plenty of time in conversation. After class today I actually discussed with my professor her conscious decision to focus more on conversation than grammar, the latter she believes can be studied just as easily in the US. To make the class more interesting, our presentation and essay topics are on relevant issues (such as Machismo and alternative vs. traditional medicine) and our observations and experiences in Ecuador.
Another really cool thing about my classes is that they all focus on either Ecuador specifically, or South America and the Andes. I’m not a Latin American studies “anything” in terms of degrees back at home, but it feels great to be learning about various themes (politics, art, ecology) as they relate to Latin America while I am actually here. Even though I am not in Colombia, for example, FARC and the paramilitary there are much more relevant when they are just across the border.
Study abroad is definitely about studying, but I’d like to acknowledge the learning I am able to do both in and out of the classroom. Last week some friends and I visited La Florista Burial Site in Quito, where we insisted multiple times we were visiting solely as tourists and not for a class (I guess people visiting ancient burial sites purely out of curiosity is rarer than I thought?). In addition to learning what I thought was some cool history (they buried their dead in the fetal position, with the highest class individuals the deepest in the ground), the Security Guard also explained to us the nuances in Guayquil vs. Quito dialects. Between cultural displays and events and national pride (Ecuador has much to be proud of!), I am constantly learning in and outside of the classroom.
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<p><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 Kate Paladin and I'm an Environmental Studies major, Math minor at Bates College. I am a research assistant studying lake ecosystems, volunteer in an elementary school classroom and perform Bollywood dance. Most people study Spanish and then decide to visit South America, but I did the reverse - after choosing Quito for study abroad, I took my first Spanish class! Although I have just 2 years of Spanish under my belt, I couldn't be more excited to study in Ecuador.</span></p>