Guest Blogger: Zana Darwish
Located in the capital city of Ecuador, the SAO Exchange program at the Universidad San Francisco de Quito has a lot to offer students looking to study abroad. Known as the City of Eternal Spring, Quito is just south of the equator and located in an Andean valley surrounded by mountainous peaks. The city offers a unique blend of modern practices and old world traditions. Most notably is the historical center or ‘old town,’ that is defined by its colonial splendor and indigenous character. Similarly, Quito offers a wide range of activities that appeal to all types of students. You can grab a meal in Otavalo Market, go river rafting, hike one of the surrounding mountains, or participate on a city tour.
The program includes four excursions that are planned for the students, giving them a chance to explore the country of Ecuador while abroad. The excursions include day trips to surrounding lakes and nature areas, a trip to the Papallacta hot springs, and a weekend trip to the pristine tropical rainforest, Puerto Quito. Transportation, housing, and meals on these excursions are already covered in the program fees, so students can travel and explore in ease.
The program at Universidad San Francisco de Quito is direct enroll, meaning the students participating on this program can take any class available at the university. This gives University of Illinois students the opportunity to interact with other international and Ecuadorian students in their classes. A majority of the classes offered aretaught in Spanish, thus making this program a great fit for student looking to get credit for Spanish classes abroad. This program also offers unique opportunities for students to get involved volunteering within the Ecuadorian community. Volunteer projects students have participated on in the past include: environmental protection, women’s shelters, orphanages, public schools and hospitals.
With so many unique experiences to offer students, Universidad San Francisco de Quito may be the best place for you to live, explore, and develop via cultural immersion and stimulating academia. For more information on this program go to Quito Program Page or come in a talk to a Program Assistant at the Study Abroad Office!
Guest Blogger: Alissa Dappas
When it comes to learning a new language, there is only so much a student can get out of lectures and exams. To truly become proficient, conversation practice is essential. As a Spanish minor, I knew that my study abroad experience had to include as much language immersion as possible if I ever wanted to become a confident Spanish speaker. To achieve maximum language immersion, I decided to attend the study abroad program in San Joaquin de Flores, Costa Rica because of its approved Illinois Spanish-credit classes and most importantly, because all students in the program had to live with a host family. Although I was extremely nervous about the concept of moving in with strangers for four months, I now consider my relationship with my host family to be the most rewarding aspect of my semester in Costa Rica.
Throughout my time spent abroad, my host family was my strongest and always-available support system. No matter what the situation or question, they were the people I turned to for help or guidance. I was lucky to live with a very caring host mom, Patricia, host dad, Ronald, and two younger host sisters, Diana and Priscila. Each member of my family took time to get to know me personally and as the semester went on, I began to realize that I really did consider them to be part of my own family. There was never one specific moment that made me come to this realization; I think it was simply a bunch of small things that built on top of each other. For instance, my host mom and I were normally the only ones around for breakfast, so every morning, I would begin my day by having a conversation with her while helping prepare the food, eating or cleaning the dishes. When my host sisters came back from school, we would play cards together or I would teach them how to do cartwheels in the backyard. We often bonded by talking about things we had in common (a mutual Harry Potter obsession was a hot topic) and laughing at my funny pronunciations of some words. After dinner, my host dad was my go-to person when I wanted to learn more about the Costa Rican government or general Latin American politics. He always seemed to know a bit about both sides of any story and usually knew more about the events or debates going on in the United States than I knew myself. So within this one family unit, I came to know each person as an individual and because of this, I learned more than I ever previously imagined I would. Besides being able to practice my Spanish with a group of people I was comfortable with, I was also able to create lifelong bonds and gain family members that belong to a culture different from my own.
Looking back, all four months with my Costa Rican family summed up to one huge lesson on the importance of time spent together as a family. Culturally, this is where I saw the greatest difference between the United States and Costa Rica. Although many people would argue that the idea of a strong family unit is still very important to most Americans, it would be hard to deny that the family dynamic in the United States is not influenced by parents’ work schedules, sports practices, tutoring, videogames, fast food dinners, etc. In Costa Rica, time spent together comes before most other obligations. And from what I’ve heard and read, it seems like this importance on family time is a central part of Latin American culture as a whole, and not just in Costa Rica. No matter my host parents’ schedules, they always made time each day to make a meal together and sit down as a family for dinner. Most days, the dinner was usually followed by a game played together or a conversation that carried over from the main meal to dessert or coffee. It was during these dinners and late-night conversations that we would discuss our days, hear about any problems my sisters were having at school or learn news about the extended family (who happened to live in all of the surrounding houses). During these moments, I learned more about life and the values of Costa Ricans and my family was able to learn about my life in the United States.
Slowly but surely, my new family impacted me in such a way that I now actively try to apply their family-centered, peaceful mentalities to my own life back in the United States. Not only did my Spanish conversation ability improve, but living with a host family also reopened my eyes to the more important things in life and that above all, the relationships that we have with our friends and family should come before everything else.
Program: College of Media in Pampalona, Spain, 2013
Location of photo: El Perdon Mountain Range
El Camino de Santiago has been portrayed in many movies and TV shows as the “spiritual journey” that will change your life forever. For Alex, Tom, and I, it was a way to get away from the world and get to know each other a little better. With no hiking experience (and no hiking gear on top of it), we embarked on a 15-mile climb to reach the Alto del Perdon. The statue pictured is dedicated to the pilgrims who walk the Camino, and offers a panoramic view of Northern Navarra. My roommates and I decided to join the metal pilgrims and animals in triumph, posing for a self-timed photo as my camera lay on the ground. The trip brought us closer as students in Pamplona and linked us together for years to come. We set out to climb a mountain, with no prior experience, and succeeded. The 10 hours of bonding that went along with it, with no computers, cell phones, or TVs to interrupt, was more of a summit, because the walls between us went down and the three of us returned brothers.
“Lumbisi and UIUC”
Program: SAO – GLBL 298, development and education in Ecuador
Location of photo: Quito, Ecuador
One of my favorite things that I was able to do in Ecuador was to help improve the educational lives of children in a rural community by organizing, teaching, and leading a day camp. While our group often had to confront struggles and adversity while planning our lessons, we were ultimately able to deliver an unforgettable experience to the children in the camp. We were also able to leave a lasting legacy of our summer camp in the form of a mural for the students to enjoy. We created, designed, and painted this mural for our students, and one by one, each student put their handprint on the branches of the tree to act as leaves. In this photo, my classmate Mayumi is just putting the finishing touches of the fantastic mural we collectively created, complete with names to correspond with handprints. I believe that the lasting impact that we made on the children by being there as mentors and role models is reflected in this mural. The students were able to understand that with our combined efforts put together, we are a part of a bigger picture. I think of the students often, and hope that this mural reminds them of the experiences we enjoyed together.
“Experiencing Traditional Moroccan Dress”
Program: SAO Spanish Studies in Granada, 2012
Location of photo: Tangier, Morocco
In this photo, you can see one of my classmates dressed up in traditional Moroccan women’s clothing. I think it’s a great representation of the kinds of academic experiences study abroad students can have outside of the classroom. How often do American students consider the traditional clothing of Islamic cultures? The majority of us, American (college) women, get up, shower, put on sweat pants or shorts, a T-shirt, and go to class. However, in Morocco, there are symbols for every article of women’s clothing. Each article is put on with attention to detail, without any thought about wearing these many layers under the hot Moroccan sun all day. These are the kind of mentally transforming experiences study abroad students can have abroad.
Guest Blogger: Peer Advisor Amanda Toledo
“You’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting,
So…get on your way!” –Dr. Seuss
AMAZING opportunities await you in Costa Rica!
Enhance your Spanish speaking skills. Learn in a small-class learning environment. Find a home away from home. Make lasting connections with your host family.
Immerse yourself in the culture and explore the colonial city of San Joaquín–just 10 miles from San Jose’s downtown area.
GIVE BACK to the community through hands-on volunteer projects working with children or the elderly.
Anthropology? Social Sciences? Community Health? Latino Studies? This program is perfect for all these majors/minors and more.
Resident Director Ana Alvarado is onsite, 24/7.
Costa Rica is lush with opportunities. Don’t miss out on your chance to be a part of it.
Check out the Fall 2013 Program Today. Deadline is now May 1st!