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Study in Quito with IES Abroad
Brighid Carey is a UConn graduate hailing from Windham, Connecticut. She's healthily obsessed with Latin America, words, sitting in sunny plazas and not worrying about the future. Brighid currently and enthusiastically battles 120 teenagers in a school just outside Bogota, Colombia as a WorldTeach volunteer English teacher. Read more about her life and adventures down south here.
When: Fall of 2009
Highlights: Academically, my Spanish skills quadrupled in Quito. I spent a considerable amount of time with friends from the U.S. but there were endless opportunities to converse with friendly locals: classmates, my extended host family and those of my friends', professors, taxi drivers, even strangers on buses. Immersion in Ecuadorian university classes really pushed my listening and reading comprehension as well. I had an exceptional Latin American Politics class through IES that piqued my interest in the subject and strengthened my fascination with the region.
Morning:I would wake up pretty early with the rest of the city of Quito - fortunately, it's almost always sunny in the morning so there was less temptation to lay in bed! After a quick breakfast with my host mom of fruit, bread, coffee and eggs, I would make sure my cell phone and wallet were securely hidden, then head out the door. Even when I had class at 6:30 am, there was always time for a glance at the beautiful mountains surrounding the city before hopping the packed Ecovia bus south to the IES center, Universidad Catolica or FLACSO graduate center. Four days of classes at three different institutions called for a bit of organization, but luckily they're all centrally located. If I didn't have an early class, I headed in the opposite direction to the K-12 school where I volunteered with the English department.
Afternoon: Afternoons always began with lunch - the main meal in Ecuador. My class schedule allowed me to bus back home every day, where I would eat at a little comedor restaurant with my host mom, watch the news and chat over soup, rice, meat or chicken, salad and juice. I might do some homework, go for a run at the huge Parque Metropolitano or nap before afternoon classes, typically around 2 or 3 pm. Getting around in Quito is easy and cheap - a ride on frequent city buses costs $.25, so commuting several times a day wasn't a problem. Sometimes a bus ride was even welcome when vendors hopped on to sell ice cream or plantain chips. After class I might hang out at the IES center to check email, study or grab something to eat with friends.
Evening: Evening plans usually depended on homework! My classes were heavily based on reading and big exams at the end of the semester, so often I would spend the night in, drink tea and visit with my host family and catch up on reading for class. If I could put work off for another day, I went downtown to the Mariscal district to get drinks or dinner with friends, or we might go to the movies, do work or watch movies at someone's house. Quito is a relatively small city but has a lot of great and affordable restaurants, bars, cultural events, cafes and a big student population. With the early wake-up calls, however, I tried to save late nights for my 3-day weekends!
A passionate aficionado for all things Latin America, Brighid has been living and traveling abroad for several years now. A Connecticut, USA native, she currently lives in Barranquilla, Colombia and thinks you should visit no matter what you've heard about it, or just read the truth on her blog, Gypsy-ish.
Why did you decide to study abroad with IES Abroad in Ecuador?
Brighid: I spent a semester in Granada, Spain my sophomore year directly through my university and I knew I wanted to go abroad again senior year, this time to Latin America. My study abroad office was not very helpful so I did research myself and ended up talking to a few people who had studied in Quito through various programs. IES had a very clear website, their fees were lower than some competitors, the classes looked interesting and the application process was straightforward. The Amazon and Galapagos Islands field trips also looked appealing.
What made studying in Quito a unique and special experience?
Brighid: Ecuador is an incredible country. I traveled to beautiful locations - mountains, volcanoes, cloud forests, coastal villages, historic cities and the Galapagos Islands. Above all though, it was the little things that made Ecuador a special place for me - laughing with my quirky host mom, drinking beers and playing cards all night at shawarma restaurants, getting asked out by Ecuadoran men in the most random locations and never knowing what hilarious moment was coming next. The friendships I made through my IES program are unforgettable and we are still close two years later.
How did this experience impact your academic development?
Brighid: My experience in Ecuador was a confirmation of my love affair with Latin America. Everything about the regions fascinates me - the people, the culture, social issues, food, geography and politics. My capstone project as a Latin American Studies major was a research paper exploring the political impact of the oil industry on indigenous populations in Ecuador. After graduation I was inspired to spend a few months in Guatemala working with a non-profit, and I'm heading to Colombia in January to teach English for a year. I know my career is going to be focused in that region, I have aspirations to be a journalist writing about social issues and underrepresented indigenous populations. Presently, my various experiences with study abroad helped land me a job with AIFS, a cultural exchange agency with headquarters in Stamford, Connecticut.
About IES Abroad
Their Roots: IES Abroad was co-founded by Paul Koutny, an Austrian student who had moved to the US on a Fulbright scholarship in 1950. While there, he envisioned a future built on a peace that grew from the lessons learned while studying abroad. He rallied 21 other friends and the crew hopped on the SS Volendam headed for a year of studies in Vienna. Feeling inspired by their own experience in Austria, IES Abroad alums Clarence and Alberta Giese immediately began helping send future groups of students abroad. Before they knew it, 60 years had passed, and IES Abroad remains a longstanding and exemplary study abroad option for students today.
Their Quest: "IES Abroad strives to provide premier study abroad programs for U.S. students that deliver the highest quality education while simultaneously promoting development of intercultural competence."