Travel Tales

Spring in South America – Life as a Student in Quito, Ecuador By Elisha Jaeke, 2017 Study Abroad Grant Recipient

IMG_8867January 2018 – And So It Begins
Classes are well underway at la Universidad San Francisco de Quito (USFQ), and after a crazy week of shopping for and selecting courses, I now have a nearly-solidified schedule. I am also working to solidify my research placement for this semester. USFQ is a prestigious institution with a gorgeous campus, and everyone seems to take their education very seriously. I’m still not sure that it has hit me that I’m here, living in Ecuador, for an entire semester. I have an incredible host family, awesome friends, great professors, and so much to see, learn, and do.

February 2018 – The Rainforest
This weekend in the Amazon Rainforest brought plenty of challenges — the intensity of nature, the uncertainty of each muddy step, and ultimate trust in our guides and surroundings — but it also brought some of the most authentic and fearless experiences of my life. Trudging through quicksand, swimming in a muddy river home to caymans and piranhas, staring down an anaconda from less than three feet away. But most importantly, the realization that this land — as well as every other bit of ocean, mountain, desert, and forest of this world — is our home. This world has always provided for us, and, in turn, we must also fight to protect it. Whether this is protecting the languages and customs of communities, combatting climate change through legislation, scientific, and personal efforts, we all hold a responsibility to preserving this extraordinary place we call home.

IMG_0380March 2018 – An Unforgettable Week
Timmy Global Health is a nonprofit based out of Indiana that aims to expand healthcare resources, empower students, and build connections with the communities it works with. Medical professionals and student volunteers can take part in medical brigades to the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, and Ecuador. I had never served as a translator, so I was intimidated at first. The medical vocabulary was expansive, and the importance of understanding and interpreting correctly has large consequences. My favorite station was, without a doubt, women’s health. We connected with women of all ages and learned so very much about the people we were working with. These conversations gave women the tools to empower themselves, make decisions, and take charge of their health.

April 2018 – The Little Things
As classes and weekends wind down, we are approaching the final chaos of it all — our final hiking trip, beach weekend, Quito staycation, and goodbyes. I have a dozen essays, presentations, and assessments to sort out within this time frame, as well. The pressure that I need to make the most of my limited days here is certainly hitting me. When in my life will I have another time like this — to simply study, meet new people, visit new places, and focus on learning about myself and the world? It’s truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Somehow each new experience gives me the opportunity to achieve something I had previously thought impossible, and if this isn’t what studying abroad is all about, I don’t know what is.

May 2018 – How to Say Goodbye
Just like that, sophomore year was suddenly over. Essays turned in, exams completed — and nearly all of it in Spanish. My classes have taught me so much about being immersed in the Spanish language and Ecuadorian culture, and, just as importantly, led me to some crazy incredible and inspirational people. This semester has been one of so much change, so much growth, so much learning. And I’m really not ready for it to end. Sadly, that’s not a choice, and if anything, part of the challenge. Learning the grace of goodbyes is an art, and I’m working on living in the penultimate. So far so good.