Life here in Ecuador has been pretty uneventful since the last time I submitted a blog. The past two weeks have consisted of doing my “deberes,” or school work, and preparing for upcoming medical school interviews. Quite honestly, I underestimated the amount of work that I would have this semester. In fact, I’ve had to turn down a lot of fun travel activities to do my assignments and sufficiently prepare myself for my interviews. I wouldn’t say I’m miserable; however, over the last few weeks, I’ve started to get the feeling that I’m not even abroad as I don’t do anything other than sleep, go to school, and do schoolwork! Again, I am 100% okay as I had a hunch that the semester could go this way, but it does serve as a reminder that studying abroad is not a glamorous vacation by any means. With this, I do think that one’s experience abroad is principally defined by two things: 1) region of the world and 2) program type. Coming from an SIT program in the same location (Quito) to a direct-enrollment program (through IES), the differences are “whip-lash worthy.”
Let’s run through a typical day. I have classes Monday through Thursday, and I usually wake up around 7:15AM. I quickly get ready and then head downstairs for my coffee and breakfast. I usually eat either alone or with my host dad as my host mom cooks our breakfast. After engulfing my breakfast, I run upstairs to brush my teeth and head out the door. My walk to USFQ is only 10 minutes each way… but it is ALL uphill, meaning that I usually arrive to my first class panting like a dog. Once I’m at school, my day is pretty unremarkable. I go to my classes, and when I’m done with my day, I head home to drink a coffee and chat with my host mom. Each evening before dinner, I catch up with everyone back at home by WhatsApp or phone call before starting my schoolwork around 8PM. Once I start my schoolwork, I work for around 4 or 5 hours before calling it quits, going to bed, and repeating it all over again the next day.
In terms of specific details, I think it’ll be easiest to lay them out here in a list.
Where do I eat meals? I eat all of my meals at the dining room table with my host family. Meals are a very important part of Latin American culture. We share stories from our day and catch up with one another at the table as we start and finish our days.
How do I get to school? My walk to school is roughly 10 minutes each way on the main road that runs through Cumbayá. On my way to school, I walk uphill, and on the way back, I walk downhill.
Free-time activities? I love to meet friends for coffee or dinner. It feels so good to speak in English every once in a while! If I don’t have a ton of homework, I love short weekend trips to the Amazon, beach, or cool places in the Andes. I’ve planned a hike for this upcoming Saturday to Fuya Fuya, a trail that I was unable to check off my list last year!
Homestay details? Now that my youngest host sister, Dayana, has returned home from her intern year in the Amazon as an orthodontist, there’s 5 of us in the main house. My two host brothers don’t live in the house with us but stop by every day to spend a few hours with the family. I’ve got my own bathroom, closet, and bedroom, and my host family’s property is HUGE with around 12 different rooms all surrounding a big garden. It’s a great space.
Host-siblings? I have 4 host-siblings and they’re all older than me. We get along great.
Daily routine differences between USFQ and Wofford? I would say the biggest difference is that I don’t have a super long commute to USFQ like I do at Wofford where I commute around 30 minutes in each direction. I think the second biggest difference between my two daily routines is that I take around an hour out of my day here in Ecuador to eat lunch, whereas I don’t eat lunch at Wofford. I appreciate the pause in my day it gives me.
I hope these details are useful to anyone considering studying abroad in Latin America and staying with a host-family and/or direct enrolling. As I said in the first paragraph, I really do believe that one’s experience studying abroad greatly depends on the program type, and I truthfully didn’t wholly conceptualize that until I returned to the same city and country but with a different program. No one program is bad, but it is important to consider what you’re looking for in terms of academics as you plan!