It was an unforgettable experience that has forever changed my worldview Past Review

By (Saint Anselm College) - abroad from 01/28/2018 to 05/11/2018 with

SIT Study Abroad: Ecuador - Development, Politics and Languages

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
It was 100% worthwhile. I learned how small my world is, how different people and communities in Ecuador are from my own, yet also how similar in some respects we are too. It's an experience I cannot reduce to words.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? None

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

This study abroad experience was academically rigorous but comparable to what I was used to at my home institution. It was rigorous in the sense that we were constantly pushed to incorporate new ways of thinking into our already-established norms and to question our presence in country as a way of life. But in terms of assignments or tests or essays, the workload was very minimal. The semester ended in an independent study project (ISP), which was the most challenging research project I had written to date, as it required us to engage in firsthand human research done in a community of our choice around Ecuador and then synthesize all that information into a report, in Spanish, which we then presented. So that part was very challenging but very rewarding as well.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

Program administration was wonderful. It came in the form of three SIT employees based in country as well as academic and cultural support from a partner institution where we took all our classes. The support we received was fantastic. The SIT staff was very sensitive to cross-cultural issues, including tricky ones like gender, sexuality, and class, and provided day-to-day support as well as guidance for larger issues, like colonial presence and other meta-ethical predicaments.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I stayed with 3 host families during my time: one in Quito for the majority of the semester, one in Intag for a week, and one in Chota for the duration of my independent study project. My family in Quito was a middle-class mestizo family that was very welcoming. They had children around my age who took me out and showed me their experience of growing up in Quito. My family in Intag was a rural mestizo family that was again very generous and hospitable in sharing their way of life with me, which was very different from what I had experienced in Quito. My family in Chota was Afro-Ecuadorian and lower-middle class, and was probably the most welcoming in terms of providing material support and help with my study project. Each family brought challenges in living conditions and ideological differences, but it was overall amazing to get to experience so many aspects of Ecuadorian family life. I would not have enjoyed the semester as much if I did not have at least one homestay experience.

* Food:

Ecuadorian cuisine is very diverse and very delicious! I am a practicing vegetarian in the States, but decided to eat meat in Ecuador, although I could have very easily continued being a vegetarian as some of my friends did. The main meal of the day is lunch, especially in the sierra (the Andes Mountains-Quito, Banos, etc.), and it is typically anywhere from 2 to 4 courses. Breakfast and dinner can be quite small and are usually taken very early in the morning and very late at night respectively, which can be difficult to adjust to if one is used to an American meal schedule. Snacking is only acceptable, in my experience, if one either hides snacks from friends or host family members or shares with everyone--and I mean everyone. But my host families were very willing to give me extra portions of food when requested--to the point that when I was sick on occasion, they would insist on my eating even when I was unwilling! Restaurants are very cool and varied in Quito and the Galapagos Islands, but more limited in other cities and towns. Restaurants are very cheap, though, even in Quito.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

Social and cultural integration was a constant theme of inquiry in the academic realm of this experience, by which I mean we were constantly encouraged to question our presence in country and keep a critical eye on those around us. Thus, I didn't feel very integrated in the local cultures (although I only spent 3 months!) but I felt comfortable. I felt comfortable enough to be myself but always at a distance from everyone around me, even other foreigners I happened to meet every so often.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

The SIT staff was very adept at dealing with health issues, which invariably came up. Be honest with them regarding symptoms because that is the only way they can help, even if embarrassing! Healthcare in more rural areas is certainly a lot scarier, so make sure you exercise, sleep well, drink lots of trustworthy water, and tell someone if you start to feel sick.

* Safety:

First I'd like to say that my experience of safety was conditioned by my social identities of being white, able-bodied, and a cisgendered man. Other peers of mine who inhabit different identities had different experiences with safety. But my experience was overwhelmingly positive. I did get pickpocketed once on a super-crowded metro train (this happens frequently, so please keep track of your possessions!), but aside from that incident, I felt and was safe throughout my travels in country. In Quito everyone says that Guayaquil is a very dangerous city; I only spent one day there and did not experience anything of the sort, but that is just my limited perspective. For those who are accustomed to city living in the States, the urban areas in Ecuador are similar with regard to general precautions.

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

This program challenged me to go beyond myself and connect with humans I never knew existed, but now will never forget. It gave me an opportunity to put into practice many of the things I'm passionate about back in the States while encountering new traditions and worldviews. I have come back a changed person, which sounds very cliché but in my case is very true.


* 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)

Ecuador is pretty cheap--aside from buying souvenirs, I could live comfortably on $50-$150 a week, especially because so much was already covered for by SIT and homestay families.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? For the first part of the semester (before the independent study project), I spent about $50 a week. When I was on my own, I was spending between $75 and $125 a week.
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Do NOT barter with merchants in the touristy town of Otavalo. I know that many people say that is 'what people do,' but it ruins their livelihood, as they live on a very small profit margin as is but somehow foreigners think they have the prerogative to barter that down even more. Bartering within $5 is acceptable for items over $25 in general, but more than that or for items that cost less than $10 is quite exploitative, in my experience.


* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
How much did the program encourage you to use the language?

0 = No encouragement, 5 = frequent encouragement to use the language

Classes, homestay, Independent Study Project--just about everything was (at least encouraged to be) done in Spanish, sometimes Kichwa (for limited settings).

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? Advanced
How would you rate your language skills at the end of the program? Fluent
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? I had completed many of the most advanced classes my college offers, which are in the 300 level for us
How many hours per day did you use the language? 10+
Do you have any tips/advice on the best ways to practice the language for future study abroad participants? Listen to music before you go. Try to translate things in your head that you come across in daily life. If you can, switch your phone to Spanish and when you Google stuff, read it in Spanish. Find a native speaker and ask them to practice with you too.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
About how many local friends did you make that you will likely keep in touch with?

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • Cultural immersion
  • Meeting new people
  • Epistemic/ethical challenges and encounters
* What could be improved?
  • We should take classes with local students
  • More attentiveness to homestay issues
  • Longer Kichwa class/immersion
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? I know to ask better questions about the prospective programs, such as about food, homestay conditions, financial concerns, fashion and dress in general, what not to pack, how to prepare academically, etc.

Reasons For Studying Abroad

To help future students find programs attended by like-minded individuals, please choose the profile that most closely represents you.
The Academic or Linguist
You went abroad with specific academic goals in mind; the program credentials and rigor of your coursework abroad were very important to you. You had a great time abroad, but never lost sight of your studies and (if applicable) were diligent with your foreign language study. Good for you!