Studying Abroad in Cuenca, Ecuador

by Mikyla Denny

Mikyla, El Cajas National Park

Studying abroad has always been a dream of mine, and finally this semester it came true. I am currently studying abroad in Cuenca, Ecuador. Cuenca is located in the Andes Mountains. It stays around 60-70 degrees daily. I live with a widow and three university students who are native Ecuadorians. Every four weeks I have a different set of classes, and currently I am in a grammar and a conversation class with another student whom I knew previously from Minnesota State University, Mankato. In total there are three of us from MNSU. There is plenty of time in my day to explore, do my homework, and relax in the afternoons. Though there are not that many students at the school that I go to, I have made new friends with students from different countries.

Mikyla, El Chorro Giron  Mikyla, Isabella Island of the Galapagos, Volcano Chico

Almost every weekend we go on a trip that is organized through the school. So far we have trekked through El Cajas National Park (which is located in the Andes), visited an ancient Incan ruin called Ingapirca, and climbed up to El Chorro de Girón which is a waterfall. They were all extremely beautiful. Of course I took many pictures, but photos do not do the landscapes justice. The school also has weekly activities for us, such as movie nights on Tuesdays, dance classes on Wednesdays, and once and awhile cooking classes or vocabulary game nights on Thursdays. We also go to a different museum every Wednesday after class.

Mikyla, Ingapirca (Incan Ruin)

During the weekend of Carnival I had the opportunity to go to the Galapagos with a friend. It was an incredible experience. On the first island we stayed at, Isabela, we hiked a volcano and went snorkeling. Several times while snorkeling I was in arms length of a sea turtle. I couldn’t believe it! The beaches there were gorgeous. On the second island we stayed at, Santa Cruz, we went to a national park where we saw many land tortoises. We also visited the Charles Darwin station where we saw different species of tortoises and some land iguanas. We also swam at beautiful beaches. On both islands we saw amazing wildlife, such as flamingos, penguins, finches, water birds, blue-footed boobies, seals, sea lions, tortoises, sea turtles, and iguanas (land and marine). It was an unbelievable experience.

Mikyla, Santa Cruz Island of the Galapagos  Mikyla Isabela Island of the Galapagos

I am extremely interested in languages and the marginalization of languages and cultures. Soon I will be starting my own anthropological research on the perceptions that the non-indigenous community have about the indigenous language and culture. From this research I hope to identify where these perceptions and biases come from. Besides my advisor, I have been collaborating with one of the Anthropology professors from the University of Cuenca.

While I am enjoying my time in Cuenca and have had some amazing experiences, it was hard for me at the beginning. I had never traveled alone for so long before. During my first week I got really homesick. I kept thinking that three months was a long time. I found that talking to my family at night helped. Also, now that I am busier with school, it is easier to pass the time. However, I still haven’t quite gotten accustomed to eating rice every day even though I loved eating it back home. Despite these few obstacles, I am enjoying my time in Cuenca immeasurably. Time is going fast, and I know I will be sad when it is time to leave and say goodbye to my host family.

Studying Abroad in Chia, Columbia

by Alexis Cummings

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Studying abroad in Chia, Colombia has been a blessing of a lifetime. Prior to Colombia, I studied three semesters of Spanish at Minnesota State University, Mankato. I am currently enrolled in a Spanish course that consists of three hours per day five days a week at Universidad de la Sabana, where I study grammar and communication. I also take Latin dance lessons and go on weekly cultural outings. This way, I am able to learn more about important cultural dances and touristic sites around the capital of Colombia, Bogotá. This opportunity has been a great experience so far because I have made friends from all over the world and each day I work to improve my Spanish.

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While abroad I have many activities planned. Because dance is such an important part of this culture, I am trying to learn traditional dances like salsa and bachata. I also plan to travel to other cities within Colombia. I would like to travel to Medellin, Santa Marta, and Cartagena because these are some of the most important cities within the country. Because I live close to the capital of Colombia, Bogotá, I also plan to visit important monuments and museums within the city. I am looking forward to sharing this beautiful country, my current home, with my friends and family who are coming to visit in April.

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Along with studying abroad come things that are sometimes challenging. I currently live with a family who has three sons and one daughter. Although it is an easy challenge, coming from a family with only two children, the house has a lot more energy than I am used to. I also have to be more concerned about my safety because I am living in the suburb of the capital city that has a population of eight million people. With this amount of people in one city also come traffic problems. Although the distance from my house to the capital is not far, it is important for me and my family to plan our timing to and from the city because of busy public transportation, unsuitable roads, and something called “Pico Placa.” Pico Placa is a law within the capital city that only allows certain cars to drive at certain hours of the day. This is supposed to help control the traffic around what we would consider rush hour by rotating odd and even number license plates each day so only half the cars can drive from 3 – 7 pm in the city. For the people of Bogotá, this law is am important part of their lives.

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After having been here for one month and two weeks, I have had many wonderful cultural experiences with the people of Colombia. I look forward to learning more about this beautiful language and country I get to call home. After having always dreamed of studying abroad, I am so happy to have this opportunity. I know that this will not be my last time in this country because Colombia will always have a piece of my heart.

Regards from Colombia,

Alexis Cummings