By | Nathan Are ’16
Kansas City

I’d wanted to study abroad in a Spanish speaking country ever since 8th grade. I’d been on short mission trips in high school to the Dominican Republic and Costa Rica, but for a semester in college, I hoped to find a program in which I could fully immerse myself in another language and culture.

Therefore, for my study abroad I chose HECUA Community Internships in Latin America, located in Quito, Ecuador. Because the program focuses on community involvement and social change, every participant completes an internship with a nonprofit organization.

I interned on a small organic farm that employs indigenous women. Ecuador’s indigenous women often have difficulty finding jobs; sometimes their only option is domestic labor. The farm provided them with a steady income and job security.

As a farmworker I was out in the fields, planting, weeding, and harvesting. Technically I was there for physical labor, but I was also working with the women and getting to know them. There’s nothing like shoveling manure for hours in the hot sun to bond you with someone.

The program also took us on three excursions to different parts of Ecuador, where we spent four days each in the rainforest, an indigenous community, and a coastal fishing village. Each excursion involved a social change aspect; we examined interactions among wildlife, indigenous tribes, oil companies, and the government.

On top of these experiences, I still had two weekly classes focusing on Ecuadorian history, politics, and social movements. In the classroom, surrounded by other American students, I was surprised by how much self-discipline it took to speak exclusively Spanish. It was exhausting! My host mom and siblings helped me maintain the immersion experience, however, since they spoke only Spanish.

May 24 2015

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