A group of 21 Goshen College students traveled to Ecuador to experience their Study-Service Term (SST) this past summer. Ecuador is a popular SST destination for students, and while many experiences are shared among the groups, there is always something that makes their time abroad unique.

The group arrived in Quito, Ecuador’s capital city, on May 6. During the journey there, Joel Yoder, class of 2022, began to think: “What am I doing? This was maybe a mistake.” 

“It was hard for me to realize I was actually going to another country for such a long time,” he added.

“The first thing that struck me when we got to Quito was how similar it was,” said Hannah Lehman, a junior music education major. 

Lehman explained that Quito was similar to “a big city you might see in the United States, but everything was in Spanish. I saw many of the differences after actually spending time there.”

Within days, students were placed with the host families they would be living with for the duration of their study portion. 

“It was really overwhelming because the day that we got picked up was also Mother’s Day,” said Lehman. “I got picked up by my host parents, and then we went to this big family gathering and stayed there all day.”

The study portion included Spanish classes from local teachers each morning; the afternoons included lectures on Ecuadorian culture, history, religion and other topics.

When the group finished their study portion, they traveled to Tena, where their goals for the trip were on hold for 20 days. 

They arrived amid a peaceful protest by the Ecuadorian Indigenous peoples that aimed to start a dialogue with government officials about the rising food and gas prices. 

“I may have an unpopular opinion about being stuck compared to other people in the group, but it was nice to be able to take a break from the constant fast pace of life,” Yoder said. 

“It was a nice pause, and it was also a great reminder about the rights that the Indigenous peoples were having to fight for,” Lehman said. “We were seeing what we had learned about in all our classes in action.”

After over two weeks of anticipation, the students arrived at their service placements. Each student went to their designated spots outside of Quito, where they experienced an abbreviated version of the service portion.

Over the entire term, students had many opportunities for fun and experienced challenges thousands of miles from their homes while learning what it means to be a global citizen. 

“I liked it,” Yoder said. “Though I had questions about why I was traveling to Ecuador as I was on the flight there, I learned a lot.”