Latin America Culture and Geography – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Latin America Culture and Geography

Ecuador_Peru_2A group of 16 HWS students are exploring the rich historical culture and adventuring through the vibrant geography of Latin America on the Colleges’ Ecuador and Peru study abroad program. Currently staying in Quito, the group will soon relocate to Cusco for the second portion of the trip.

Led by Professor of Economics Scott McKinney, the program takes students on a range of experiential trips to local sites and extended excursions across the region, all of which integrate concepts and theories learned in the classroom.

“Being able to learn something in a classroom and then go out and experience it firsthand makes the things you are learning much more valuable,” says Elizabeth Anderson ’19, a cultural anthropology major. “This has been a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

In addition to two Spanish language courses, students are enrolled in two courses taught by McKinney that focus on the cultural and environmental history as well as current issues facing the two regions. In “Diversity and Adaption,” for example, students studied Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection and evolution, and then traveled to the Galapagos Islands – the famous site where Darwin made observations that led to his groundbreaking theory. Students are also studying the water issues of the countries in “Water and Economic Growth.”

Placed in homestays in both cities, students are provided an authentic experience of local culture as they cook, eat, speak the local Spanish dialect and enjoy other activities unique to the region alongside their host families. Students are also taking advantage of free time to take their own excursions across the region. Anderson says she traveled with a small group of HWS students to Papallacta, a group of hot springs formed by a volcano south of Quito.

The group also experienced the political scene during a tour of Quito – the center of Ecuadorian political life where McKinney explains that “government representatives and protestors contest the issues across the narrow street between the President’s palace and the plaza, and decide whether governments will stand or fall.”

“My goal is to have these students, whom we educate to lead lives of consequence, keep their study abroad experience in mind when it is their turn to make decisions that affect Ecuador, Peru, Latin America, and other places in the world that are not the U.S., and have to make these decisions in terms of friends and families, people and places that they knew when they were abroad, rather than in terms of abstractions that mean nothing to them,” says McKinney.