Latin America

Ben Ryan ’12 in Ecuador

Ben Ryan '12

Ben Ryan ’12

Major: Engineering
Program/Semester: Pitzer Ecuador Engineering Program, Spring 2011

Why did study abroad?

I chose to study abroad for a variety of reasons, but mainly to do new things. I wanted to discover somewhere new and different, to meet new people, to learn a language, to experience a new culture and to learn things about myself in the process. I was able to do all of these things, and I am a better person as a result.

I chose Quito, Ecuador mainly because I wanted to learn Spanish in a home-stay program while staying on track in the engineering major. Other factors that set Ecuador apart from other countries is that it has a low cost of living, incredible natural beauty and unparalleled biodiversity.

Tell us about your program

My program was hosted by Pitzer College. Their Ecuador program consists of an intensive Spanish class, Ecuadorian Studies, and an independent project. Through the Pitzer program, I was able to take an engineering class in English while still having a true Spanish immersion experience. All classes are in English, except for the Spanish language course. There were also several excursions during the semester.

What were your courses like?

I was enrolled in  Spanish for Foreigners (Levels 4 and 5) at Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Ecuador as well as Engineering Control Systems (E102), Ecuador: An Andean Culture, and a Directed Independent Study Project through the Pitzer program.

The courses were generally challenging and stimulating, but I also had plenty of time to practice my Spanish, spend time with my host family and travel around Ecuador.

Where did you live?

I lived with a host family in Quito, and the experience was outstanding! I lived with a host mother, host father, two host sisters (15 and 25 years old), and a toy poodle named Tofee.

I also spent about a week with an indigenous family in a rural community about an hour north of Quito. I got to help them pick corn, tend to their cows and attend a religious festival with them.  It was a life-changing experience in itself.

What challenges did you experience?

The biggest challenges were not knowing the language when I arrived, the hour-long commute to school each morning, and coping with cultural differences.

What were some memorable highlights from your time abroad?

The highlights of my trip was my experience with a rural indigenous family, gathering with my extended host family for lunch on Sundays, and the trip I took to Machu Picchu in Peru.

For fun, I traveled around Ecuador, I played basketball through my university, I spent time with my extended host family, and I spent time exploring Quito. In my travels, I was able to see some amazing things and meet some great people. I went to beaches, volcanoes, lakes, rivers, and jungles. The number of cool places near Quito was astounding, and it made getting out of the city for a weekend a real treat. Playing basketball was a great way to make Ecuadorian friends, and an excellent yet challenging opportunity to improve my Spanish skills. Quito boasts an impressive and cheap nightlife in the Mariscal area, which is something that I took full advantage of on the weekends that I stayed in the city.

What advice to you have for Mudders and studying abroad?

Do it! Take a risk and you will be rewarded with a once-in-a-lifetime experience! Keep an open mind, do as much as you can, and meet as many people as you can.

Julia Diaz ’12 in Ecuador

Julia Diaz '12 bothers a sheep

Julia Diaz ’12 and wooly friend

Major: Engineering
Program/Semester: Pitzer Ecuador Engineering Program, Spring 2011

Why did you study abroad?

I studied abroad to improve my Spanish language skills.

Tell us about your program

My program was hosted by Pitzer College. Their Ecuador program consists of an intensive Spanish class, Ecuadorian Studies, and an independent project. As part of an agreement with Harvey Mudd College, they offer an E102 course that satisfies the requirements of our course. All classes are in English, except for the Spanish language course. There were also several excursion during the semester.

Describe a typical day

I had breakfast with my family then classes. There were two other engineering majors on the program and we often explored the city together.

What were your courses like?

I chose Ecuador because they offer D102 (big stems) and I could work on my Spanish skills. Since I had already taken Spanish 44, I opted to take the indigenous language course instead of Spanish.

  • E102 (big stems)
  • Ecuadorian Studies
  • Kichwa language
  • DISP (final project course)

There were three Mudd engineers on the program and we all took the E102 course together. Pitzer arranged for a local engineering professor to teach the course. The courses were challenging in a different way than at Mudd; the language barrier was difficult, especially in Kichwa (learning another language in a foreign language becomes very complex very quickly). Also, the format for assignments, etc. was different.

Where did you live?

I lived with a host family; I still keep in touch with my host mom and I miss her already!

What challenges did you experience?

My top 3 challenges were:

  • Going to the hospital (I spent 2 nights there with a severe stomach infection)
  • Dealing with living in a dangerous city
  • Kichwa Class

What were some memorable highlights from your time abroad?

We traveled, went dancing, tried local cuisine, went to the movies–traveling around Ecuador was always an epic adventure and for me was the highlight of the experience. My top 3 highlights were:

  • Machu Pichu
  • Salsa Dancing
  • Traveling on the weekends (especially our Amazon spring break trip!)

What advice do you have for Mudders and study abroad?

Ecuador was an incredible experience I wouldn’t trade for anything!