by Mikyla Denny
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.
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.
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.
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.