Ecuador: Small Country, Big Heart! Past Review

By (Hispanic-American, Puerto Rican, and Mexican-American/Chicano Studies., The College of William and Mary) for

CEDEI: Cuenca - Semester in the Andes

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I gained a greater cross-cultural perspective and awareness of the ways of life in Latin America, specifically for the people of Cuenca, Ecuador. I gained greater confidence in my Spanish-speaking skills and have greater communication skills in general. I feel more independent and more understanding of other cultures and beliefs. I have a greater respect for different value systems and other ways of living. It was an incredible experience, and I am always happy sharing my experience with others--I definitely recommend this program!

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 0-2 weeks

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

The workload at the CEDEI school was easier than my college courses, but I received an incomparable study experience that widened my horizons through many other course aspects--field trips to local museums, field experiences in the Andes, interactions with local university students about politics and the economy, and a service-learning experience with a local clinic. Plus, I really enjoyed the small class sizes (my largest class had 6 students) because of the enhanced personal interactions between students and professors. My professors were local professors who teach in Ecuador's schools and universities and were always willing to help and support us in any way they could. Their passion for sharing their personal experiences in Ecuador and their knowledge of Spanish and Ecuadorian culture and history really encouraged me to understand more about the diversity of Ecuador and integrated me better into the culture. I couldn't ask for a better study abroad experience! :)

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

I really liked the program's administration. Because the program was small, I felt like I had a strong, personal relationship with the directors who wanted the most enriching, educational experiences for the students. Whenever a problem occurred, I always felt comfortable going to a director for help. They provided great support and exceeded my expectations!

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

My host family was one of my most memorable experiences. I was a 30-minute walk from the school and felt very safe in my host family's neighborhood. I was able to easily take a bus or cab anywhere within the city. My host family treated me as if I were one of their own daughters.

* Food:

The food was delicious and plentiful--lunch is the biggest meal and your host family serves you soup and then a big plate of food (usually of rice, meat, and vegetables). The freshly made juices was one of the best parts. The aji sauce is common (it's made from tree tomatoes and is a type of salsa that can be paired well with most dishes).

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

We went to the Amazon, the Galapagos, nearby towns (Saraguro, Chordeleg, Gualaceo), and we did a week-long trip to Peru to see Lima, Cusco, and Machu Picchu. These excursions and trips really opened our eyes to the diversity of people, environments, and history of Ecuador and made our time very memorable as well as educational!

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

* Safety:

I had to go to the doctor twice and it wasn't a problem at all--the staff at CEDEI were so helpful in assisting me in seeing a doctor and their insurance covered my visits. It was comparable to my healthcare at home.

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? Yes


* Money: How easily were you able to live on a student's budget?

(1 = not very easy/$200+ on food & personal expenses/week, 2.5 = $100/week, 5 = very easily/minimal cost)

Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? I didn't have the need to spend much money on day-to-day expenses because our meals were covered by our host families. I ended up spending the most on souvenirs and food when I went out to eat, but even that was not a lot.


* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? Advanced
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? Advanced Spanish Grammar and Composition (305)
If applicable, to what degree did your living situation aid your language acquisition?

Language acquisition improvement?

I really liked practicing my Spanish with my professors and especially with my host family as well as local university students and the staff at the clinic where I volunteered. I used Spanish in everyday interactions.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • Host families!
  • Plenty of travel excursions!
  • Small school setting--more personal interactions with professors
* What could be improved?
  • Integration of students into the community (intercambios with students)
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? Take every opportunity you can to learn about the people and the culture in your classes, with your host family, through traveling, and through conversations and friendships with the people there. Immerse yourself in Cuenca as much as you can--you won't regret it!