Secretos de Ecuador Past Review

By (Spanish/Fairhaven, Western Washington University) for

Study Abroad Programs in Ecuador

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
Spending three months in a country whose native language is not English, where my skin color puts me in the minority rather than the majority, whose traditional foods are more defined and delicious, whose music is completely different from what the majority of my country listens to - all these unique qualities and more made this an absolutely outstanding and unforgettable experience.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 2 weeks - 1 month

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

There was definitely a lack of communication between CIMAS and the host institution, Evergreen State College. One of the main problems that resulted from this was the wide range of Spanish abilites - from extremely basic to conversational - so that it was difficult for some of the students to have the classes be conducted in Spanish without a translator, something which CIMAS had not foreseen.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

Again, lack of communication between host country and home institutions. The language requirement was not the same for all participating universities, and the language that our classes in Ecuador would be conducted in was promoted as English, when in fact it was Spanish. I personally benefitted from this method, but students who came in with absolutely no speaking abilities suffered because of miscommunication, and lowered requirements. Ultimately, even though this program has its deficiencies - sometimes our lectures, bibliographies, and case studies were not perfectly tied together - it was still absolutely outstanding, and in terms of my experience, I wouldn't change anything. But in that sense, there's definitely an element of getting out of it what you put into it - attitude, energy, everything.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I fell in love with the neighborhood I lived in. It wasn't anything fancy by any means, but it had such charm. My house was extremely close to school, which was quite convenient. The institution itself, however, is a bit of a ways to the nightlife scene, which really wasn't problematic, just something to be conscious of. I lived with a single host mom and her 18 year old daughter. They were for the most part very welcoming of me in their home, and were very generous with what they had to offer.

* Food:

Being a vegetarian is rather difficult in South America. If you tell people you don't eat "carne" (meat), they think you eat chicken. And even if you don't get served a piece of cow/pork/chicken/what-have-you, the soup was probably cooked with it. Which, I learned to accept, and never really had any issues. Also, everyone warns away from street vendors, but I have occasionally found them to have the best food - empanadas de queso, or platano asado con queso. And all the tasty jugos and batidos, with fruits that you will just never find in the states.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

* Safety:

CIMAS had someone from the US embassy in Ecuador come give a speech about safety, and I think went a little overboard. Granted, he did present us with all of the "what-ifs" and possible dangerous scenarios that could happen to us, but I think his speech served to incite fear into a lot of the students rather than just a sense of caution. Quito is a large city, but it isn't rational to walk around thinking someone's always trying to rob you, or every time you get into a taxi, they're going to kidnap you. All you have to do is think wisely and make smart decisions - maybe it's not the best idea to walk around with your ipod flailing around, or to go into a big park by yourself at night. It's just common sense.

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?

Opportunities to practice Spanish were everywhere, and not everyone at CIMAS spoke English.

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? A student who is maybe not looking for the most rigorous academic course, rather willing to appreciate the experience and the culture of such an amazing country. I definitely learned and saw a lot through this program, but not everything was something to take notes on, or to put into a paper, to be graded on. The kind of person who should do CIMAS is one is ready to fall in love with a Latin American country as diverse and complex as Ecuador.