BY Rishon Seaborn
Salisbury University’s Winter Study Abroad programs returned from Ecuador on Jan. 23.
This particular program allowed students and faculty from the social work, nursing, communications or Spanish departments to travel during the holiday break. A combined total of 20 SU representatives from the communications and Spanish department attended.
Just under four weeks were spent in Ecuador as students attended classes with the program’s partner foundation Centers for InterAmerican Studies (CEDEI) and experienced excursions to various places filled with rich indigenous and modern history.
Opportunities to introduce many new and different aspects of a foreign culture were available, as well as incorporated with specialized topics relevant to each course provided. In addition, the students were able to participate in the process of connecting with the Ecuadorian students and sharing aspects of their own culture with them through multiple service projects.
Bryan Horikami, the department chair of Communication Arts and the director of the Ecuador study abroad program for communications, explained aspects of the trip that make this program special.
“This is a program that allows students to stretch their self-initiative; it’s a country where…you may not have any Spanish background but, despite the challenges, you get to see a completely different lifestyle that we’re not accustomed to.”
The difference in culture and environment provides room for a new perspective to be adopted.
“You have a greater appreciation not only for the people here but also [for] the ones in your own life,” Horikami said.
Campus Director of Leadership Alliance and director of the Spanish study abroad program for Ecuador Carolina Bown shared the ways in which Ecuador welcomes diversity.
“One of the greatest things is that students challenge themselves to live in a different way,” Bown said, “and will maybe take some of the good things that Ecuador has to offer [values and lifestyle] and incorporate them into our American way of life.”
This program provides an opportunity to understand and appreciate the diversity of another country—not just ethnically but also spiritually and environmentally. The exposure to another world view allows the meaning of life and the term “universality” to be directly addressed.
“In comparison to the U.S., Ecuador would rank as a small country. But, in spite of that, people are happy and healthy,” Bown said. “It’s an important lesson to be learned as we hold American ideals.”
The elements of enjoying human relations, food, culture and nature are used as common ground to establish basic bonds within the human race.
This program allows “students [to] grow by being out of their comfort zone in every way [and] by simply immersing themselves in an unfamiliar culture,” Bown said.
SU’s Student Government Association Vice President Savannah Albright shared her perspective on the beneficiary aspects of the program.
“My Spanish has definitely improved but I also feel a lot more cultured—it definitely helped me change my view of Ecuador for the better,” Albright said. “I especially liked learning about the indigenous culture because we don’t really have one quite like that.”
Emma Wille, the program coordinator, emphasized the necessity for tolerance and understanding within the human race.
“Something that is universally important right now is tolerance,” Wille said. “I think proximity creates tolerance because it’s really easy to other-size people when they’re far away—it’s easy to not realize that there’re more similarities than differences.”
An intimate exploration of the city of Cuenca in Ecuador was offered as some of the programs were able to tour domestic violence shelters, the geriatric center, a pre-school and public and private hospitals.
CEDEI Executive Director Mark Odenweler mentioned the constant opportunities in which global perspective presents itself. The achievement of understanding globalism and diversity can be seen through extending curiosity and turning it into knowledge.
“I genuinely hope that students will learn to ask good questions about themselves and their values as well as the ones here in Ecuador,” Odenweler said. “The process of asking ‘why’ is something we need to do more of in an effort to understand one another.”