“Day in the life” at USFQ in Ecuador

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!

Transitioning Back Into Ecuadorian Culture

Yesterday marked three weeks back in Ecuador, and it’s been spent well. I’ve done some quick trips with friends and my host family while also starting classes at USFQ. I have been quickly reminded of why I fell in love with this country last year: it’s gorgeous.

The biggest cultural transition for me has been living with my host family. Elizabeth and Victor have been amazing and their children have treated me like I’m their brother. I’m grateful to be so comfortable at home here in Cumbayá, a suburb in the “valley,” a large area around 5 miles away from Quito but 3000ft. lower in elevation.

Termas de Papallacta

As I settled into my new housing, I couldn’t help but feel a little sad at how much I missed out the last time I studied abroad in Quito. We lived in hotels or apartments the entire semester, and it was a lot harder to integrate myself into the local culture. However, staying with my host family, I’ve gone out with one of their daughters, Leslie, and her friends. Additionally, this past weekend, we went down the Andes into the Amazon region to spend time with my host dad’s sister and to check on my host brother’s dragonfruit farms. It feels so good to be incorporated into Ecuadorian culture through people who care for me.

Dragonfruit Farm in Sangay, Morona-Santiago Province
Palora, Morona-Santiago Province

I want to focus on two aspects of Ecuadorian culture that greatly differ from my own: the language and the culinary scene. For starters, obviously, Spanish is the official language. It’s why I came back to Ecuador as a Spanish major! While I feel very comfortable in Spanish, I will admit that I arrive at home absolutely exhausted every night after sitting through my classes, which are all taught in Spanish. Naturally, as Spanish isn’t my first language, it uses a bit more brain power to sit through classes, take notes, and submit assignments (hence why I sleep like an absolute baby nightly). However, with this, I will say that I’m quickly becoming used to everything being conducted in Spanish as my control of the language in an academic setting continues to grow.

As for the culinary scene, Ecuadorian food is very different, in my opinion, from food in the United States. Admittedly, I have lost a few pounds since being here. It’s absolutely not that I haven’t eaten my fair share of food, but the food here is generally healthier than the food I find at home. Sitting in my third week, I am starting to get a bit tired of white rice. Don’t get me wrong, I love rice, and my host mom’s rice is delicious; however, I try to go out and get dinner with friends at least twice a week to give myself a bit of a rice-break. Furthermore, the food here in Ecuador is so good, but I have been reminded that it’s a bit repetitive in nature. Soup, chicken, beef, rice, and salad are staple items. At least two of them will be part of each meal. Again, I’m not trying to complain whatsoever; however, it does become a bit repetitive (still delicious, though!). Of note, yesterday, I had cuy (Guinea Pig) for the first time in three years. I forgot how similar it was to rotisserie chicken! I will admit, though, that I had to dismiss the idea of a PetSmart Guinea Pig out of my mind while eating it.

Cuy, or Guinea Pig in Puyo, Pastaza Province

Lastly, I wanted to add that, after being robbed last semester on public transport, I have had a heightened awareness of pickpockets while out and about on the streets. I understand that pickpockets are also common in the US, but cases in Ecuador are the highest of any country in the Americas. Moreover, as Ecuador is a developing country who’s economy has also been heavily impacted by the Russia/Ukraine situation this year, cases of theft have risen by 29% since February. I have not let this ruin my experience; however, I do have to remind myself to be vigilant about my things when I’m out in town. Again, this is not to deter anyone from studying abroad or traveling in general, but some of my friends that I have met at USFQ have been robbed since being here (mainly for being in the wrong place at the wrong time), so it never hurts to bring up safety while abroad!

Laguna de Cuicocha, Imababura Province

The past three weeks have been full of big transitions, but I believe I’m getting to a point where I’ve got my routine established and have set down some “roots,” if you will. As the semester picks up speed and I solidify my routine as a local student, I’ll post another update. Until then, I’m simply enjoying the ride.

Ecuador: Round Two

Even though I’m already in Ecuador, let’s call this a pre-departure post. The past few months have been crazy with visa issues and handling orientation for both IES and Universidad San Francisco de Quito (USFQ). Needless to say, as always, studying abroad is worth every headache. I wouldn’t be back in Ecuador if it wasn’t.

Following the trend of chaos, I threw my AirPod away on the plane just as we were descending into Quito. Once we landed, I threw on some gloves and frantically searched through the galley trash bins. Thankfully, I found it! At customs, I ran into a bit of an issue with my student visa as I used the same one last year, but they were happy to let me in the country once I cleared things up. I was so happy to see my host family once I picked up my luggage. It felt surreal to be back in Ecuador and pass through familiar places on the way to my new home to unpack and rest after traveling for more than 24 hours.

My host mom, Elizabeth

The past few days have been filled with new faces, familiar places, and long days of orientation. It’s felt both exciting and weird to be back in Ecuador. A part of me feels like I never left and the past 7 months spent in South Carolina were a dream, but they weren’t. I catch myself passing through certain areas of the city and getting hit by memory after memory. I can’t wait to “litter” the city with more memories. Situated up in the clouds, surrounded by active, snow-capped volcanoes and the Andes mountains, there is nothing like this city. Quito is so special to me.

During my last semester abroad, I grew so much as a person. I dove into Ecuadorian + Latin American culture and the Spanish language. Today, as we walked through the historic center, I felt the same excitement as when I first set foot in it around a year ago. The colors, smells, people, and sounds remind me of who I was a year ago and how much I’ve grown as a person. My hope is that, if I ever come back to Quito, I’ll feel this all over again. I’m ready for another semester of personal growth and discovery in one of my favorite places in the world.

Quito’s Historic Center

As I have yet to start my classes at USFQ, this is still a pre-departure blog at heart. I think the most popular question I’ve gotten is: “Why Ecuador… again?” I know that many feel I should have chosen another country; however, I felt that I would have a more enriching experience returning to a very familiar country. My M.O. was to continue diving into Ecuadorian culture, grow my relationships with local friends here, and make new ones. As for my program choice, I chose to directly enroll at USFQ because I wanted a true challenge. As my time at Wofford comes to a close and I look toward medical school in the near future, I wanted to take full advantage of the time I had left and push towards “Superior” control of the language. In the coming weeks, I want to fully embrace the challenge of building new friendships with local students and tackling college-level coursework in Spanish. I believe I’m ready.

Moreover, I’ll admit that I’m a bit nervous to start classes next week! I definitely don’t regret choosing this program, but I’m sitting at a perfect blend of anxious + excited to start classes as an international student. I’ve jumped through way too many hoops in planning my second semester abroad to have any reservations or regrets!

Today’s tour of the historic center

Again, as I look to my aspirations for another semester in Ecuador, I want to be successful academically, grow in my relationships with my local friends, make new friendships, get close with my host family, and continue to explore this unbelievable country. The coming months will have their tough moments, but so does everything else in life. Above all, I aspire to be flexible, patient with myself, and take advantage of every opportunity I have, while I have it. Here’s to another semester in Ecuador! ¡Chulla Vida!