Only months before leaving on SST, six Goshen College students learned that they would go to Ecuador, not Peru.

The transition brings sadness and concern, as well as joy and new opportunities to past and future SST students.

Logistical issues with visas and banking were the main reasons for the change, according to Jan Shetler, director of international education. While the SST program in Peru had a greater emphasis on sustainability studies and cultural differences, the program in Ecuador allows for a greater focus on Indigenous cultures and their struggles for equality, she said.

Jerrell Ross Richer, professor of economics, drew on the relationships he built from years of May term classes in Ecuador to make the switch possible.

Haley Willis, a junior who completed SST in Peru, was sad to learn the program would end. She’s disappointed that she won’t get to hear news about her host family from new SST-ers who stay with them. She also wishes that more students could have the same experiences that meant so much to her in Peru.

“I’m glad we’re branching out, but it’s unfortunate that Peru had to be cut,” Willis said.

As an ASL Major, Willis was concerned about the change for another reason, too. A Peruvian Sign Language program made Peru SST especially attractive to ASL majors like Willis, who was worried that the new SST location may not offer the same opportunities for sign language learning.

However, Jan Shetler has assured students that there is nothing to worry about.

“There is a possibility for an even better ASL program,” she said.

There is currently a collaboration in the works with Ecuador’s national association for the Deaf. They hope to get the program up and running for Fall 2020.

When Siana Emery, a senior currently on SST in Ecuador, first heard about the change, she said she was sad that she won’t get to see Machu Picchu. But she warmed up to the new location quickly, imagining the unique experiences she’ll have in Ecuador.

“I think it is absolutely amazing that I get to be part of the first group to a new location,” she said. “I think there is something special in that.”

“The Students going to Ecuador will forge the path for other GC Students,” Shetler said. “It is an exciting time of learning what the possibilities are in this place and developing new relationships.”

The Ecuador SST-ers had a great first week sightseeing in the capital city of Quito. In addition to class lectures, leaders Andrew and Ruth Hartzler have planned four extended field trips that will give students a taste of Ecuador’s jungle, coast and highlands.

Emery said she feels supported by her host family.

“I have experienced nothing but kindness from those I have encountered,” she said. “It has surprised me how quick everyone has taken us under their wing, and how excited they are for us to be here.”

The relationships that Goshen College is building in Ecuador are the beginning of a promising new path for SST.