Alumni Spotlight: Meng Ji

Meng is a student at the University of Guelph in Ontario. Ecuador: Food Revolutions was her first trip abroad and also her first trip with Operation Groundswell.

Why did you choose this program?

I chose this program a bit out of spontaneity because I didn't know where I wanted to go and I would have probably gone anywhere.

The theme of food revolutions sounded interesting to me because many of my friends are in programs that deal with sustainable agriculture and environmental governance of food and I thought I would learn not only about what they're interested in, but also where my food comes from and how I can help in it being organically and sustainably produced.

What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

OG arranged everything in the program from accommodations to food restrictions to any and all the activities. All we had to do was pick a flight there and back and OG took care of the rest! It was so easy. They even provided us with packing lists so I didn't have to scavenge the internet during exam time.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

I would tell the next person to not be as nervous as I was because the program is well organized and became the best experience I have ever had.

At the beginning I was a bit nervous about going to a country that I had never been to and in a city where I did not speak the language, but everyone in Ecuador was so kind and helpful I never wanted to leave.

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

An average day in this program will likely consist of getting up to the sight of beautiful mountains and trees around you, drinking freshly squeezed juice and eating delicious local food, hiking to the many Indigenous communities in Ecuador and helping farm the property.

The laborious work was well worth it, in the end, knowing you helped the community! And you end the night usually with a debrief of your favorite part of the day!

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

One of my biggest fears was feeling unsafe in the city of Quito. I knew there would be petty thieves and pickpocketing but I overcame that with the help of my program leaders who told us how to be safe in the city.

It's always important to be aware of your surroundings. And you should not let that fear stop you from exploring! The fear of being robbed is present everywhere in every city and you just have to be aware of who is around you.

Is there anything you wish would have been different about the trip?

One thing I would have liked was for this trip to be longer. We were in and out of a town/village so quick it was hard to believe we actually worked there.