The Best Four Months of My Life - BCA Quito - University of San Francisco de Quito Past Review

By (Spanish, Trinity University) - abroad from 01/10/2015 to 05/17/2015 with

Study Abroad Programs in Ecuador

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I learned a lot about Ecuadorian culture, Spanish, public transportation, racial relations and how they relate to socioeconomic status, the complexity of machismo, the huge wealthy disparity, the importance of family and friends over rigidity (time, schedules, individualism), and a lot about myself. I gained confidence in my ability to navigate a big city by myself and talk to people (in Spanish!); I learned that wherever I go, people will be the most important part of my life.

Review Photos

Study Abroad Programs in Ecuador Photo Study Abroad Programs in Ecuador Photo Study Abroad Programs in Ecuador Photo Study Abroad Programs in Ecuador Photo Study Abroad Programs in Ecuador Photo

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 6 months+

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

My classes at USFQ were not as intense as the ones at my home university, but I appreciated that since I didn't want academics to take away from traveling, getting to know people, and soaking up as much of Ecuador as I could.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I absolutely loved living with a host family. I learned so much about the culture just by being there and it improved my Spanish immensely. My host mother is one of my favorite people ever. It was really comforting to have a place that I called home and even someone who let me call her mamá.

* Food:

Homemade Ecuadorian food can't be beat. Everything in my home was made fresh daily. A typical breakfast consists of eggs, fresh fruit, bread, juice and/or coffee. Lunch is soup, rice, meat, and vegetables. And dinner is similar to lunch. Nothing is spicy, but it is flavorful.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

As much as I tried, I will never be confused for a local (blonde eyes, blue hair, and not completely fluent), so I had to give up the hope that I would pass as a local. However, people were very kind to me and interested about why I was in Ecuador. Living with a host family and taking classes with other Ecuadorians is really helpful if you're hoping to integrate yourself with the culture. And once you make one friend, they introduce you to their social circle, so that's really helpful!

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

I never had any problems serious enough to go to a hospital, but I know if I did, my director would have been easy to contact. I was a little sensitive to the change in food, but my host mother took excellent care of me and insisted on making a special simple soup (kind of like chicken noodle) for me to help my upset stomach every time I got sick.

* Safety:

I lived in a lower-middle class neighborhood, so I was in a little of a more dangerous area than others in my program. However, a lot of safety has to do with choices you make. For example, I wouldn't ride the bus past 7 PM; I called legitimate, trusted taxi services rather than flagging one down; and I tried to walk with other people at night. You do have to be careful on buses (they'll teach you how to hold your bags in front of you) and in general just to look confident all the time even if you're lost.Two people in my program were pick-pocketed but it was done without them noticing it (so no violent crimes occurred.) Overall, I don't think Quito is any more dangerous than any other big city.

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)

It was quite easy for me to live on a student's budget. If you eat local food, you save quite a bit of money (lunches can be about $3-5). If you choose to get ice cream often (which I would highly recommend) and go out at night, then you may spend a bit more. Still, I spent less abroad than I typically do.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? $70
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Eat at local Ecuadorian restaurants (almuerzo places are incredibly well priced and you get to experience a huge part of the culture: food!) Make sure you budget well so that you can travel when you like.

Language

* 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

Our directors used both Spanish and English, and they allowed us to use both as well. We'd usually start a small group talk in Spanish, but if it got more complex and we were struggling to convey our thoughts because of a lack of vocabulary skills, they'd continue speaking in Spanish but allow us to use English. We could choose to speak Spanish amongst ourselves, but we often got impatient and resorted to English when we were hanging out. If you are very determined, you can stick with Spanish! It also helps to hang out with Ecuadorian friends and tell them not to speak English to you.

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? Intermediate
How would you rate your language skills at the end of the program? Advanced
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? 3000 (upper division)
How many hours per day did you use the language?
Do you have any tips/advice on the best ways to practice the language for future study abroad participants? Make Ecuadorian friends (and tell them not to speak English to you because most USFQ students speak English fluently); talk to your host families and hang out with them; go out and do things (travel, go to clubs, try restaurants); don't be shy to talk to people you meet (I had some great conversations on buses, in the historical center, with cab drivers, etc. with people that I never saw again).

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

  • Local Students
  • 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?
  • people! host family, BCA students, USFQ friends
  • the excursions are incredible. many Ecuadorians told me that they'd never been to places that my program took me (Galapagos, Amazon)
  • the balance between freedom and support
* What could be improved?
  • only one girl had a problem with her host family, so maybe being more selective with the families
  • i seriouly can't think of anything else
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? How short 4 months can really be. ¡Aprovechen! I study a lot, but academics should not be anyone's sole focus when studying abroad. Take advantage of the numerous other ways of learning (traveling, volunteering, interning, talking to locals, making friends, etc.) in addition to schoolwork.