Quito Ecuador: Worth every minute, every penny Past Review

By (Bio, Southern Illinois University - Edwardsville) for

Study Abroad Programs in Ecuador

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
My study abroad experience was most definitely worthwhile. I made some really good friends and contacts while away and magnified my cultural awareness. It was my first venture down to South America and Ecuador has left a lasting impression on me. My future plans have changed because I am now considering Peace Corps after witnessing the poverty in Ecuador. I had never been to a impoverished country before and the difference between seeing it on television and living in it is unparellel. It helped me gain an appreciation for my own country as well, helping me realize how lucky I am to be from the United States of America.

Personal Information

If you took classes at multiple universities, list those universities here: La Academia de Espanol Quito
How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 1 month - 6 months

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

I took private, intensive Spanish language for four hours a day for three weeks. The class itself was very intense and each week you rotated professors. I was assigned homework each day and the assignments ranged from small compositions to practicing for a presentation. The homework never took more than an hour of my day to complete. I was a little unclear as to how the grading system worked. None of my assignments were taken for grades and I did not receive a final grade at the end. What I did receive was a certificate that stated I had attained the level of Advanced Spanish, but how that conclusion was reached I have no idea. The differences in the educational system was I had a closer relationship with my professors since class sessions were one on one. The rate at which my Spanish accelerated was far greater than any Spanish I took at my home university. Also, the private lessons gave me more of an opportunity to speak conversational Spanish,compared to the lecture-based classes in my home university.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

Every time I had a question about something, the one-site support had the answer. They were very organized and professional, but at the same time made you feel as comfortable and safe as possible. Everyone in the office was actually from Ecuador so they had plenty to share in terms of culture and history, but also other pertinent issues such as health and safety. The program was very small. There were about nine other students during the three weeks I spent there and just as small of staff. My expectations were not met, they were exceeded.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I was not too happy with my housing situation because it was a thirty minute walk from my school. I would not have minded if it wasnt at the top of a hill, but after it while it got old. Also, I would have liked to have known that my house was at the top of a hill because I would have brought different shoes and was completely unprepared for the walk. All of the other students were located near the trolley and bus lines, but mine was inconveniently located in a culdesac where I never saw a bus come close. Also, I would have liked to have someone to walk with, but I had to walk to and from school everyday alone. I did not need to buy any items to settle in and my host mom accomodated my vegetarian needs. When I first arrived I felt like a family member, then after a couple days I felt like a guest, then at the end I felt like a client. My host mom made it known that one day my laundry was more expensive than usually ($2.50), but I know that I paid over $100 a week to live there and laundry was supposed to be included in that price. Also, in that laundry was some of her towels and I ended up paying her $2.50 since I felt guilty. The third time she did my laundry, she separating my underwear and told me I had to wash them by hand. That being said, it was from that point I felt like a client because she was beginning to count every dime I costed even though I paid her over $100 that week. The meals she provided me were good, but they no where near amounted $100 because I saw how cheap fruit and vegetables were there. $100 could buy a person a three course lunch everyday for thirty days. Also, at time it was sort of awkward because it was just me and my host mom living together and there was no one around my age. She had grandchildren that were about four years old and the generation difference caused some issues. While my friends wanted to go out enjoy the nightlife, my host mom mde me feel guilty about staying out after dark. I am 22 years old and have not been living with my parents for three years. I tried not to go out on the weekdays so I would not wake her up, but I think the weekends should be okay. There has to be some sort of compromise. None of my friends had issues with their host families letting them go out. I think Language Link should pay more attention to the age of the prospective student in relation to the host family. There was a lady in her fifties taking classes at my school and I think it would have made more since to pair her up with my host family.

* Food:

I loved the meals I received at home. Everything was vegetarian and fresh. Sometimes breakfast was smaller than I am used to, but everything was great! There is a vegetarian restuarant called "Shakti" that I would definitely recommend for future students. Also, you can't beat $3.00 for a three course meal!

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

Everyday at break time we would all go up to the terrace and have coffee and pastries. It would give us the opportunity to interact with other students and professors in Spanish. For the first week of my program I participated in something call Activa. You have to pay extra for it, but it pays for small excursions after each class session for a week. We went on a tour of the President's house and were able to stand on the patio which overlooked La Plaza Grande. We then took a tour of La Plaza Grande and were given a brief history about its importance to Ecuador. Another trip was La mitad del mundo which is literally the Equator. Another trip was to Teleferica which was a trip in a cable car up to the top of a mountain. All of the trips were fun and conducted in Spanish. Also, during one of our breaktimes, we all had presentations about the history of tamales, then afterwards were able to make them!

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

* Safety:

In general I normally felt safe, but as with any city it has its moments of uncertainty. The on-site support made safety one of their biggest priorities from the beginning. Advice: Never walk alone especially if you are female. I did witness one person being robbed across the street from me while I was walking alone at night and it definitely made me rethink the choice I made. I did get sick one day of class and the director was so helpful. I did not need to go to the doctor, but he continued to ask me if I needed any medicine or a doctor or if I needed someone to come to my house that it could be arranged. The only health issues I was warned about was drinking the water. I was told it was not safe for foreigners to drink and to avoid it. For friends I had that went to the Amazon, they were recommended to get vaccines for malaria and yellow fever prior to arrival. Since I stayed in the city, I did not need any vaccines.

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

Finances

* 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)

Language

* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
If applicable, to what degree did your living situation aid your language acquisition?

Language acquisition improvement?

I could practice Spanish with absolutely everyone! The director, the professors, other students, my host family, and anyone else you would run into. In Quito, I did not run into a lot of people who spoke English so I was forced to speak Spanish. Also, the people of Ecuador were more than willing to talk with you and help you practice. I had to use Spanish in everyday interactions. Everything from giving a taxi driver directions, ordered coffee and food, and asking the school staff questions. Absolutely every trivial detail.

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 do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? The type of student that would benefit from this program is a student that is serious about improving their language skills. I spent four months in Spain and learned more Spanish in three weeks in Ecuador than the whole time spent in Spain. The student must also be independent and motivated. This program is all private instruction so participation is inevitable.