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Why did you decide to study abroad?
I wanted to go somewhere that was not very well traveled by American students, so that ruled out Europe, specifically Spain. I chose Ecuador, and the program Duke in the Andes, because of the program trips that they offer (we went to the Galapagos, and the spring semester students spend a week at Machu Picchu) as well as positive reviews given by previous Colby students who went to Ecuador.
There were 19 students in the program, and we each lived with a host family. We took classes through the program, at the University, and also at the grad school FLACSO. We went on 5 program trips that were incredible and greatly complimented the coursework from our main class.
The program trips were incredible each in their own way, and were by far my favorite part of studying abroad through Duke in the Andes. We spent time with a native tribe in the Andean mountains, another native tribe in the Amazon rainforest, an Afro-Ecuadorian community on the coast, we took a trip to Mindo, and we went to the Galapagos. As a program, we were exposed to some of the many cultures that Ecuador has, which was not only educational, but also very fun.
What was your greatest challenge?
The language barrier was difficult at first, and many times it was frustrating not being able to effectively communicate with anyone. But, as time went on, speaking in Spanish became much easier, and I have retained a great deal of the language after returning, which is really impressive.
Go for it! No matter where you end up, studying abroad is worth it. You learn so much and, when will you ever have time to spend 5 months in another country without very many responsibilities?