Jason Tinero (Washington University in St. Louis) studied on SIT’s Ecuador: Development, Politics, and Languages program in spring 2015. Below, he describes how the program affected him.
Overall, the SIT Study Abroad experience has been life-changing for me. It forced me to regard my time in Ecuador not through the eyes of a tourist, but as an intercultural being. We were encouraged to look beyond our presence as tourists and fully immerse ourselves in the culture of Ecuador through language, classes, and the homestay experience. We focused on the country as a whole, speaking openly and honestly about the genuine struggles the citizens are encountering as well as the successes they have reached. We had classes relating to the political climate in Ecuador and languages and their relation to the population, as well as sections on international development and colonialism that has existed and still exists in Latin America. Along with those general themes, we had classes on other aspects of Ecuadorian culture (for instance, cinema or women’s rights reforms).
The highlight of the program was our academic director, Fabian Espinosa. He is such a caring individual who is focused not only on each student’s academic success, but also their personal development, comfort in a new environment, and overall completion of goals. He planned excursions throughout the country that aided our understanding of the material we learned but also opened our eyes up to how Ecuadorians truly live in different environments. He also ensured we were enjoying ourselves, often balancing the academic workload so that we could explore our surroundings and foster new relationships not only with our American cohort but with Ecuadorian citizens.
The homestay program was also an incredible aspect of the program. I have made lifelong relationships with my families, and—as they still tell me to this day—I am always welcome back to the country and into a home that is my own. I quickly moved from calling them my “host family” to just “mi familia”—they were not just a passing-through environment, but rather an environment in which I could learn, improve, and succeed in comfort.
Overall, my experience with SIT was incomparable and unforgettable. I have a second home in Ecuador now, and I genuinely feel as though I experienced the culture and country to the fullest extent!