Two weeks ago, the arrival of six Goshen College students in Ecuador, marked the return of Goshen’s international Study-Service Term program after a year and a half.The group made an early departure from Goshen on Aug. 31. Besides a minor complication with one student’s visa which delayed her entrance into the country for a few days, the trip is running smoothly and the students are steering clear of COVID-19.
“Ecuador made international news for the dire situation they faced early on in the pandemic,” said Caleb Longenecker Fox, one of the leaders of the unit. Since then, over half of the population has been vaccinated and the spread of the virus has been significantly reduced through strict nation-wide restrictions.
“I think that [early spike] scared people into being really cautious,” Caleb Longenecker Fox added. The CDC reports that the country is currently classified at a level three, out of four on their Travel Health Notice system.
The students in Ecuador received mandatory vaccines against the virus and are following both Goshen College guidelines and local COVID-19 requirements.
The SST Advisory Committee decided last spring that it would be safe to send students abroad this fall.
“The decision,” explained Jan Shetler, director of international education, “was based on having everyone vaccinated; CDC, WHO and US State Department advisories; [and] consultation with our partners in Ecuador as well as embassy staff and other study abroad programs in Ecuador.”
If all goes well, trips to Indonesia and Senegal will take place this spring and summer.
Co-leaders Caleb and Nina Longenecker Fox arrived in Ecuador in January and have been there since. Nina Longenecker Fox spent the spring and summer working toward a graduate degree in Ecuadorian history while Caleb worked with a vanilla startup business. They will lead units this fall, spring and summer.
The couple was planning to lead SST during the 2020-2021 academic year before the pandemic hit. After the program was canceled for a year, it became their duty to rebuild connections in the host country.
Goshen College’s main partner in Ecuador is an organization called the Cofán Survival Fund. The Cofán are one of the oldest remaining indigenous cultures in the Ecuadorian Amazon, and the organization works to preserve the nation’s heritage while protecting the biodiversity and natural resources of their traditional land.
With over two weeks in the country, the group has gotten settled into life in Quito and is looking forward to their first field trip next week: a visit to a cloud forest near Mindo where they will learn about local reforestation efforts.
The group of six students currently in Ecuador is much smaller than typical SST units. However, Caleb Longenecker Fox said the group size has some advantages: “A smaller, more intimate group creates a special atmosphere where we can be vulnerable and open with each other in our processing and reflecting of both shared and individual joys and challenges.”
For more information and updates about the Ecuador SST group this fall, view the current blog at goshen.edu/ecuador/current-blog/.