Studying Spanish abroad: just do it!

Guest post by Kolton Martin

At the beginning of my university career, I looked enviously towards my friends and former classmates who were leaving our hometown to attend university in other cities and countries and wished I had been able to do the same.

Despite my misgivings, I figured that brooding about that wasn’t going to help my first year. So, I tried to immerse myself in my new life as a university student. It was a good choice. Despite my city not changing, my life did and for the better. I met new friends and through the eyes of students from elsewhere I gained a new appreciation for and pride in Victoria.

One day my Spanish professor told us about an opportunity to study abroad in Cuenca, Ecuador, and just by being in that class we all qualified to apply. I attended the meeting, applied and the following fall I found myself on a plane flying to a place farther away than any of those friends I had previously been jealous of.

Standing on top of Mount Cabogana

Not knowing what exactly to expect I stepped off the plane to what was going to be my home for three months. After meeting my host family and getting my bearings, I was confident I had made the right choice.

The next three months were some of the most fun and interesting I’ve ever had. My command of Spanish improved drastically. In the beginning, I was mostly only able to utter small sentences about basic concrete things. However, by the end of my stay in Ecuador I was able to have full and complex conversations about a great variety of topics. I also learned much about the culture of Ecuador.

I had been on vacation before but this was the first time I felt that I had a decent idea of what it’s actually like to live in a country other than my own. The program we were in struck a good balance between studies and free time to explore Ecuador, and explore we did. We organized trips to the three major regions of Ecuador: we swam and surfed on the equatorial coast, we camped and hiked in the mighty Andes mountains and my personal favourite was when we hiked and canoed in the Amazon Rainforest. We even had an opportunity to meet an indigenous tribe in the Amazon who spoke their original language of Quechua.

A typical street in the historical centre of Cuenca, Ecuador (El Centro)

A fishing boat and the ocean on Ecuador’s coast (Montanita, Ecuador)

You may be asking who is this “we,” which brings me to the most important part—the people I met. Whether by luck or selection the seven other UVic students and I got along brilliantly. We planned all of our trips together and never had any serious arguments. The harmony between the seven of us served as the bedrock of this experience.

The people that surrounded us were excellent as well. The university staff, our host families and the fellow students of the university all seemed to conspire to make our time there as good as it could have been. I enjoyed my time abroad immensely and I am extremely grateful to have been given this opportunity. If anyone reading this is considering studying abroad, I implore you to do it!

Standing on top of the New Cathedral so named because it’s newer than the centuries old Old Cathedral in Cuenca, Ecuador

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