Undergraduate student Bowen Wright shares about the unique advantages of studying abroad, the importance of cultural immersion, and creating a home away from home in Quito, Ecuador for the Go Global seminar.
“There is no better way to learn a language than to be immersed in the culture.”
I would highly recommend a Global Seminar to any students studying language, literature, and culture! During my Go Global study abroad seminar in Quito, Ecuador, we attended classes at Universidad de Las Américas (UDLA) with UBC professor Stephanie Spacciante. Since our Spanish 201 and 202 classes were each a month long, we learned information in a quicker, more condensed fashion. However, I found it easier to retain because we were constantly using it outside of the classroom.
Our classes were focused on learning Spanish vocabulary and phrases that were most applicable to our living situation in Quito, helping us with our day-to-day lives. It was important for us to get out of the classroom and do cultural excursions to understand more about the beautiful places and people we were fortunate enough to be culturally immersed with.
Although Ecuador is small in comparison to Canada, it is one of the most ecologically diverse and beautiful places I have ever been to. With the Andes, the Amazon, the Coast, and the Galapagos, it’s hard to believe that you’re still in the same country!
While I was booking my plane tickets, I remember thinking, “Two months is more than enough time to see a lot in such a small country!” Now I think I could have spent an entire year there and still not seen everything there is to see.
I was very fortunate to travel often during my time in Ecuador. We had cultural excursions with our class at least once a week to see different parts of Quito. On weekends, and during the Reading Break, I was also able to travel with friends and my Ecuadorian host family.
River rafting in the town of Baños was one of my biggest highlights! The river that we rafted down was incredibly beautiful and one of my most memorable experiences. I remember the forested mountains being so amazingly green and lush, unlike anything I had ever seen before.
I am also interested in global development, so visiting the Casa Saber Pega Full was an amazing opportunity for me to see how developing countries are dealing with high teenage birth rates.
Casa Saber Pega Full is a community centre located in Quito’s historic town that runs fun, educational programs for youth, including education about preventing unexpected pregnancies. I first visited the centre with our class as one of our cultural excursions, but returned to do an interview with one of the head psychologists at the centre. I did my final project for Spanish 202 on Ecuador’s high teenage pregnancy rate and how the centre provides teens with healthy extracurricular activities and sexual education in a positive environment.
The most important part of cultural immersion for me was living with my Ecuadorian host family.
I lived with my mama, Susi, her son, Jorge, and their dog, Candy. My family was so incredibly kind to me and embraced me as another family member. We spent lots of time with my Grandma who lived below us, as well as my Aunt who lived nearby. Family is such an important part of Ecuadorian culture and I was grateful that my Ecuadorian family included me in so much of their life when I was there. We went to movies, museums, and even day trips outside of Quito together. My host brother and I are close in age, so we also spent lots of time together. His friends and my friends would hang out, and we made lasting friendships.
Although it is easy to look back on my experience and remember all of the good times, I was definitely challenged and out of my comfort zone in many occasions. Towards the end of my trip, while I was in my Ecuadorian home, I felt a familiar buzz in my pocket which meant my mom was phoning from Canada. These calls were usually a bluster of happy updates over spotty wifi reception, but this time, my family had phoned to tell me that my dog, Juno, had died.
I was heartbroken, over 7000 kilometres from home, and still had to complete three Spanish exams in the next four days. I was overwhelmed and did not know how to find the strength to carry on. Eventually I told my mama Susi the news and we had a long, rewarding chat in Spanish. In that moment, I felt like I was finally at home.
Because I challenged myself to make a long lasting connection with my host family and was devoted to speaking in Spanish for two months, I was able to have a home support system a world away, and have the strength to work hard to achieve a high grade.
I would like to study International Relations, and I believe that a second language is so important in that area of study, because different languages open up so many doors and different ways of viewing the world. I intend to major in International Relations and either minor or double-major in Spanish.
My experience in Ecuador encouraged me to pursue Spanish more. My goal is to eventually become fluent in Spanish and hopefully return to Ecuador to visit my Ecuadorian host family and other parts of the country that I was unable to see during the Global Seminar.