Friday, March 19, 2010

Hannah S. - Ecuador - Spring 2010

I have been putting this off for some time now, but it’s about time I update you all at Elmhurst College about the wonderful experiences I am having while studying abroad. I am studying through the program IPSL (International Partnership for Service-Learning and Leadership) that is not only allowing me to study here but I also have a service placement. While being here I have had the opportunity to be immersed in the culture at all different levels. The university I am attending is the top university in Ecuador, where I am taking all my classes in Spanish, which has been difficult but it is improving my Spanish SO much. Then I am living with a host family, which has probably been the biggest insight in Ecuadorian culture for me. First with the food: my mom insists that I don’t eat enough even though she feeds me the hugest lunch AND dinner I have ever eaten. About half the plate is always rice, and then there is usually some kind of potatoes and meat. (Needless to say, I am gaining weight!) I am also seeing the deep importance of family in the culture and the ways in which they interact. Lastly, I have a service placement, which is in a school where most of the children come from families who have parents in prison. At service my main responsibility is teaching English but I have also been able to just love on the kids and form relationships with them.

Other than my day-to-day weekly events, I have had the opportunity to travel the country a lot. I have had some crazy adventures including whitewater rafting (and falling out of the raft…), riding in trucks through winding roads up a mountain, and bartering for gifts at the largest market in South America. I wish I could write about all my adventures but at this point I could probably write a novel! I am about half way through with my experience here and I can’t believe how quickly the time has gone by. I can’t wait to come home but everything here is just so amazing and I have so much I want to do still. I just don’t want to come home with any regrets. There is still so much on my list and I know I am going to want to come back here and see so much more! I love to write so please, ask me any questions you have! Also, I have been blogging while I’ve been here about all my adventures so if you want to read more here is the link:


Anonymous Sara Kuzianik said...

Hannah! I LOVE YOU!!!! I MISS YOU!!!

--Sara Kuzianik

10:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Hannah, I'm a student at EC, do you have any tips on deciding what classes to take while abroad?


12:24 AM  
Anonymous Abby Powers said...

Hi Hannah,

I do have a few questions, if you don't mind answering them.

I am a student at EC, and I recently applied for IPSL's India program.

I was wondering what a typical day, or week, is like for you. What is the balance between service, school, recreation, and/or quiet time?

Also, on IPSL's website, under each program's information, they list courses available at the host institution. However, the courses seem somewhat limited. When you arrived in Equador, did they offer other, or more, course choices? Did you have in mind exactly what courses you wanted to take, or were you pretty much open to anything? I'm just asking because I don't have any Gen Eds requirements to fulfill, so all of the courses I take while I'm away will, most likely, only count as electives.

Anyway, any information or pointers you can give me will be greatly appreciated!

Abby Powers

4:55 PM  
Anonymous Sara Kuzianik said...

Also, Hannah, what classes did you pick & why?

9:45 PM  
Anonymous Jacob Stelter said...

Hey Hannah. Wow, your experiences sound fantastic. I am an EC student and am going to be going to Spain this summer and was wondering if you had any ideas or recommendations on choosing classes when you arrive. I know it probably is more so random, but let me know if you have any ideas. Hope you keep having fun!

11:08 AM  
Blogger Tyna said...


Your experience thus far sounds amazing. I am currently a student at Elmhurst and would like to study abroad to a country whose primary language is English. I was looking through the brochure of the program that you are in and liked what I read. However, before I make any major decisions I would like to know how the program has helped make this a smooth transition for you and if the program itself affords you any help or support in Ecuador.

Does your commitment to service learning and being a student ever become too overwhelming for you?

How are you adjusting to the differences in food; have you become sick?

When deciding to go through the application process for IPSL, did you get financial help through the program, school, and outside sources? Which location in Ecuador did you choose and why did you choose IPSL over the program in Quito, Ecuador through the school?

If you can answer these questions that would be great. Thank you for posting on the blog site; it really does help other students.

Krystyna Santana

11:10 AM  
Blogger Allison N. said...

Hey Hannah,
I am another EC student and i was wondering how you found out if the classes you're taking abroad would transfer for credit?
-Allison Nault

12:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Hannah, I'm a student at EC, do you have any tips on deciding what classes to take while abroad?


Kaitlyn Freerksen

3:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello Hannah!

How have you adjusted to taking courses in Spanish? Is it difficult to keep up with what is going on in class? Were you afraid to take more challenging classes because of the language barrier, or did you take what you wanted to anyway?


Lauren F.

5:58 PM  
Blogger Veltrim said...

Hi hannah!

I hope all is going well, it looks like your having a wonderful time out there. I had questions about the classes you picked and why? Is there any reason you chose the classes that you did? and how are the classes in another country? Well take care and have a great time.

6:44 PM  
Anonymous John Cosby said...

Hi Hannah,
I am planning on studying abroad this summer in Spain. I was wondering how you decided on what classes to take. Are you taking a mixture of literature, culture and grammar.
Also, did you take your host family any kind of gift from the U.S.?

Pienso que todo esta buenisimo para ti en Ecuador..y espero que este sacar MUCHAS fotos para nosotros! Buen viaje!

9:32 PM  
Anonymous Hannah Schmitz said...

Hey Everyone!

A lot of you asked about how I decided on which classes to take while being here so I will answer that generally and then get into some of your specific questions!
I am taking 4 classes in total. Through the program I am in (IPSL) I am required to take a Spanish class and then another class through the program about organizations, development, and volunteering. For the other two classes I tried to find classes that were both interesting to me but also counted for a Gen Ed credit. I am taking Photography and a Philosophy of Buddhism class. My classes did change once I got here because I needed to have more time to do my service (we are required to do 200 hours in the semester). As far as my tips:
-take a class that is going to teach you more about the culture and country you are going to be studying in. Really valuable.
-Don't be too stressed about it before you go because almost everyone in my program had to change their schedules once we got here.
-Take classes that you are going to enjoy!

That's so amazing that you picked IPSL. It's one of the hardest international programs but it's also one of the most beneficial ones. Being here I am more busy than most other international students but it's a good busy with my service and events with my host family. Typical week:
I have 4 classes and they are all on Monday and Wednesdays. I am in classes from 10 am-5:30 pm. It's somewhat crazy but worth it. Then Tuesdays and Thursdays I have my service from 8-2. I am teaching English and volunteering at a school in Quito and I am loving it! Then Fridays I have nothing which is when I have time to sleep in and work on photo projects! And it's also nice to just have a break. In terms of the balance, it is a demanding schedule and most of my free time is in the nights and the weekends.
Yes, I for sure did not realize the amount of classes I could take until I got here! The classes IPSL lists are suggested classes that you should take. (which are usually really good classes to take!) I know that I was required to take a language class, but I don't know if that's the same for you in India. I know that I was allowed to take almost any class I wanted to here, except for online classes. Keep your questions coming! The people at IPSL are really helpful as well so don't feel too shy to call them! Let me know if you have more questions.

IPSL really helped with the transition process and our directors are there to help us with any questions or problems we have. The directors are based on campus and are the ones that teach our class through the program. Along with the regular orientation at the university we also had an orientation with the program were we went more in depth on cultural concepts and safety issues. We are all living with families which is the best way to learn about and be immersed in a culture. And also our service placements show us a different level of the society because we are working with usually the lower class. I really think IPSL does a good job of immersing you in all levels and aspects of the society. And yes, they have been there for us each step of the way. It's really nice to have our own directors when we have questions and concerns about anything.

3:07 PM  
Anonymous Hannah Schmitz said...

I talked to Wally Lagerwey (the director of Study Abroad programs) and he was a lot of help with knowing if things would count for Gen Ed credit. And then I had to talk to the head of my major and minors to see if the classes I wanted to take would count for credit in those areas.

Lauren F.,
It did take me awhile to adjust but it is going really well. In the beginning the teachers were really helpful because it was pretty obvious Spanish was not my first langauge. They would clarify things for me when I didn't understand and were just really helpful. I mostly took whatever classes I wanted. None of them are really upper level classes becasue they are counting for Gen Eds. My philosophy class is probably the most challenging becuase, well, it's philosophy. But I am adjusting well and it is getting easier as my Spanish skills are improving.

Read my first paragraph about my classes. But yes, I brought my host familiy chocolates (Frango mints because I'm from Chicago) and a puzzle of Chicago, and I also brought with me a TON of pictures of my family and friends which they enjoyed. Chao!

Chao todos! Let me know if you have anymore questions I love to talk about my experiences and I know how overwhelming the whole getting ready process can be!


3:32 PM  
Anonymous Chelsay Browning said...

Hello Hannah,

Your trip sounds very exciting. I am jealous of all the great things that you have gotten to do! I am wondering what was the biggest culture shock that you faced on arrival? Was there anything that you just completely didn't expect or couldn't adjust to immediately? I'm sure that it has taken some time to accept being in a new culture, and I am hoping that you have some good tips to get over them. Thanks.


12:41 PM  
Anonymous Kaitlyn Freerksen said...

Hey Hannah! Hope you're having a good time. I was wondering, did you experience culture shock at all? And if you did, how was it? Or what did you do for it. Especially since you are in a country that speaks a different language. Just wondering. Hope all is well.


4:56 PM  
Blogger Veltrim said...

Hey Hannah,

It looks like your having the time of your life. I'm so excited to get to experience something like this. But one question i had, was how did you deal with the culture shock, or did you have any culture shock? Thanks Keep having a blast! Take care.

6:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Hannah,
I am also going through IPSL program this summer to Spain. What kind of volunteering do you do? Have you met a lot of friends there in classes? Also, did you have any culture shock? Do you have any good tips for me or anything I should know about the program?

2:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Hannah!
It looks like you have a lot of questions to answer so I'm sorry to add one more to your list, but since you are the only education major that I know of...
How do you feel your experiences have prepared you for your future as an educator?
Thanks chica!

12:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, Hannah,

I'm an EC student planning to go abroad next semester and I'm wondering how it was making friends not only with other abroad students but local students also.

Sounds like your having a great time!
Emma McCabe

9:29 PM  

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