My gap semester with Amigos was an incredible and formative experience. I think about Cuenca, my dear host family, and the lessons I learned there almost daily. Amigos did an excellent job finding a loving host family for me—they were wonderful and I hope to visit them someday. Although I did not imagine myself with the internship I had (I volunteered at a preschool in the city center), I now realize it taught powerful lessons in patience and self-advocacy. I also came to understand the great privilege it was to have any sort of job in a Latin American city. Most of my coworkers had been through extensive schooling and were in charge of these giant groups of kids day after day for years. I could get up and leave whenever I wanted!
The language classes were very thorough and streamlined (they don’t waste time teaching vocabulary or grammar tenses you will never need to know). The highly structured format of the language school field trips and monthly Amigos excursions are perfect for someone who has never traveled solo in a different language before. As someone who had previously done this, there were times when I felt we were being babysat. However, I came to appreciate the safety, included transportation, and insider access we had as a group.
I took advantage of the independent travel opportunities we had during the semester—and these trips were some of the highlights of my time in the country. It was during these smaller group trips that I really learned about myself and how I function in groups. All the while, we had the insured support of our supervisors who were just a few hours away (another thing I took for granted but now appreciate, looking back on all of the things that could have gone wrong).
The supervisors I had were great people with a plethora of knowledge and well-seasoned opinions of Cuenca. Though I did not require as much support as some of the other participants, I am again glad they had my back just in case.
Overall I recommend this program to open-minded, inexperienced travelers. While young adults from all walks of life can benefit from some way in this program, the open-minded, inexperienced travelers in my cohort enjoyed the program the most.
You’ll gain language skills, intercultural competency, and friends from all over the world (Ecuador, the US, and Europe!) Best of luck!