Brielle, a University of Delaware senior double majoring in Neuroscience and Spanish Studies, knew she wanted to study abroad this winter. With the desire to travel to a Spanish-speaking country, Brielle discovered the opportunity to volunteer in Ecuador and immediately knew that was what she wanted to do this winter.
Teaching English in Ecuador opened up a lot of opportunities for Brielle. It gave her many experiences that she can take with her as she graduates from college this spring and heads out into the workforce. With an unforgettable experience abroad under her belt, I interviewed her and asked all about her travels in Ecuador. Read the conversation below to find out more!
Studying abroad or know someone who is? Email Keri at firstname.lastname@example.org to be featured on the blog!
Major: Neuroscience; Spanish Studies
Minors: Applied music – piano; Biological sciences
Expected year of graduation: May 2014
Where are you studying abroad? Tumbaco (Quito), Ecuador
I had never done a UD Study Abroad program because I was able to fulfill my major requirements during the fall and spring semesters, but I was looking for a way to enrich my Spanish major and language skills. I am also extremely interested in volunteer work, so after some lengthy internet searching, I decided that volunteering to teach English in a Spanish-speaking country fulfilled both my academic and volunteer. As for choosing Ecuador, I had only left the country once beforehand so it was more of a random choice – I knew I wanted to go to a country in South America.
So far, what is the coolest thing you have gotten to do/experience/see during your trip?
This is such a tough question! Teaching was fantastic – the students always had questions and were willing to have fun in class. I also learned so much from them about Ecuador, such as culture, food, school systems, and geography. Because I had weekends off, I was able to travel a bit, and it was super cool to go zip-lining and see waterfalls in Baños, Ecuador. What teaching and traveling have in common for me is that everything was a discovery and new experience and all the experiences I had were cool.
This was my first time traveling out of the country alone, and I think I picked up a lot confidence in myself and as well as experiences I can reflect upon. Volunteering as a teacher also gave me so much more respect for educators – teaching isn’t always easy, and my experience taught me to keep that in the back of my mind as I go forward. I also learned how to communicate with different types of people, specifically teachers and students who didn’t speak my native language (which led to some hand motioning and roundabout explanations a few times).
What is the most challenging thing about studying abroad? How could this help you when you get back to UD and/or graduate from college?
The most challenging aspect of my time in Ecuador was the impossible-to-avoid challenges of being in a foreign country and basically starting as a blank slate. At first, I had no idea how to get places (bus routes? walk? taxi?) or even where to go to buy a toothbrush, but I picked up information with every time I went somewhere. Trial and error worked out pretty well, especially with transportation. I also went by myself, so as a whole, I definitely gained self-confidence and learned how to navigate on my own. I was also reminded of how comfortable I am at home and how much there is to explore outside UD and my home state of New Jersey. Maybe I won’t be going abroad again in the near future, but after college, I think when I get lost in a new city (which is bound to happen) I’ll definitely remember and reflect on the learning experiences I’ve had in Ecuador.
Any advice for students who may go on the same trip as you/visit the country one day?
Whether you’re doing a traditional study abroad program where you take classes or a different kind like international volunteer work, dive in to learn as much as you can about everything around you! Try the local foods, try different transportation systems, visit museums or historical areas, and try to learn or practice a foreign language. If you’re doing a traditional study abroad program, find a way to give your time as a volunteer. It’s a terrific way to interact directly with and learn more about the people, culture, and language of a country 🙂
Brielle is a Blue Hen Ambassador and kept a blog with lots of posts and picture. Click the link to read more about her volunteer experience abroad: www.briellegerry.wordpress.com.
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