HWS students have returned from a vibrant study abroad program that spanned two South American cities: Quito, Ecuador and Cusco, Peru. Led by Assistant Professor of Spanish Fernando Rodríguez Mansilla and Assistant Professor of Psychology Brien Ashdown, the group completed their exciting cultural immersion and learning experience in May.
The Andean countries of Ecuador and Peru represent one of the most dynamic regions in South America, one that is marked by a significant history of social and political changes as well as by a millenary population that continues to thrive and develop, says Mansilla.
“In this program, the students were involved in this fascinating and dynamic cultural process, through classes, cultural visits, trips, and other activities,” he explains.
Students stayed with different host families in each country, offering them the opportunity to experience firsthand the cultures of the regions in which they stayed. In addition to studying local culture, the program included multiple excursions to destinations such as the Galápagos Islands, the Titicaca Lake and the Macchu Picchu archeological site. Encounters with local people who shared food, music and experiences with the group were also enriching.
“Every day was a valuable experience,” says Jordyn Dezago ‘15. “Whether we were going on a weekend excursion or just spending an afternoon with our host families after school, every day was something new and different. I don’t think I’ve ever learned so much in such a short period of time.”
In both Quito and Cusco, the HWS group partnered with local organizations that provided teaching space, Spanish language instruction and helped with excursion planning. The Andean Center for Latin American Studies in Quito offered students the ability to enroll in four courses during their stay: two Spanish language/literature classes, either a psychology or Spanish seminar and a class called “Diversity and Adaptation,” which was co-taught by Ashdown and Mansilla. While in Peru, Centro Tinku offered the program similar options.
Ashdown says that he hopes the cultural awareness inherent in the program “leads to not only an acceptance of diversity but an excitement to embrace diversity and different ways of knowing.”
“In going on this trip, I have gained so much: independence, amazing new friends from both HWS and other countries and a new way of looking at life that has left me feeling excited, determined and refreshed in a way I never expected,” reflects Mollie Kenerson ’15.
“I think that living, traveling and studying in South America has broadened my world-view tremendously,” Dezago adds.