This blog has been created to share the College of Staten Island (CSI) students’ experiences around the world. Dolphins across the Seven Seas provides the opportunity for CSI students, staff, faculty and beyond to gain insight into the study abroad experience. Additionally, Study Abroad Peer Advisors provide reflections upon their experiences as well as advice to potential study abroad participants. CSI is the single senior college of the City University of New York (CUNY), located in the borough of Staten Island.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

A Small Gem in South America ~Patricia Bauer, Guayaquil, Ecuador

After going back and forth I finally decided on Guayaquil, Ecuador for my study abroad program - this proved to be the best decision for me. Spanish has always been a passion of mine, and I have taken several classes at CSI, but wanted to become more fluent in speaking the Spanish language. Nothing can compare to being immersed in the language and culture. Within my first week I was amazed to see how much more I understood and how well I could speak with the local people.
The University Cátolica, where I took my classes, is a wonderful experience. The professors are so friendly and from day one they make you feel very welcome and comfortable. The program is well organized and the faculty involved work together to help you with any needs or concerns you may have.  The classes are small and are designed to get you to improve your Spanish speaking skills. This is done with a great variety of different activities that are split between class time, trips, and films. The first day after class we went to lunch with the team from the University, which enabled us to get to know our professors and classmates a lot better.  One of the trips that the University organized was a trip to El Mercado the local market where we met local indigenous people and learned about their culture, native dress and customs, and then we were able to buy clothes and souvenirs.
Ecuador is one of the smallest countries in South America. It lies on both the Northern and Southern hemispheres and is divided by the Equator, giving the name of the country. Ecuador has very well developed tourism, and it uses the US dollar as the currency, making it easy to plan trips and excursions independently. Anything from hiking to rainforest expeditions are all within a few hours travel. On the weekends my classmates and I had many spectacular adventures at a very reasonable price.  
Our first weekend we travelled to Salinas with its beautiful beaches, which was a quick ride by bus or van. We all enjoyed two days of relaxation at a very reasonable price.  Our second adventure was to Baños a small town situated among lush green hills with waterfalls; this is a popular destination with Ecuadorians and foreign tourists alike. We all stopped at a local restaurant (which was included in the price of the excursion) for a delicious home cooked meal. Here we met local people and really got to use the Spanish we learned.  In the evening we relaxed in the natural thermal baths that gave the town its name “Baños.”
Traveling up through the Andes over 9,000 feet to reach the quaint elegant town of Cuenca is a fabulous way to see the countryside and mountain scenery. Cuenca’s captivating city has colonial architecture, glorious churches and cathedrals. Cuenca is known for its delicious bread, which we had to buy a few times in the two days we were there. At 15 to 20 cents a roll it was a good bargain! We saw Panama hats being made in the local factory, walked the narrow streets and had refreshments at several local bars and restaurants.
The experience will stay with me forever; I get to look back on not only my school life, but also traveling to places with the wonderful friends I made at school. I was a little unsure about staying with a host family at first but it was a fabulous experience.  Sonia, the lady I stayed with included me in everything, I felt as though I was her daughter. Whether we were watching TV, eating, or just hanging outside I was always very comfortable with her, she introduced me to her extended family and they even had a party for me to show me how to make empanadas.  I have made many friendships that I will have in my life long after the experience in Guayaquil Ecuador. I am constantly speaking with the friends from Israel and California that I made while studying abroad, and I know that I have developed a strong and wonderful friendship with them thanks to this experience. Studying abroad is something everyone should experience; trust me it will be one of the best experiences of your college life! I am already thinking of doing another program abroad…