Briana's Experience in Ecuador

Briana standing in the jungle, looking at the camera

Since students are now able to apply for our health-focused global programs, the PHSRC is excited to share student experiences from traveling abroad with us on past trips. This week, Briana shares a few of her memories from traveling to Ecuador in AHS 3004: Health in Ecuador - Humans, Animals, and Ecosystems

I participated in the AHS 3004: Health in Ecuador - Humans, Animals, and Ecosystems course in Spring 2023. I was drawn to this course because of its interdisciplinary nature. I believe that a holistic approach is helpful for finding a truly sustainable and impactful solution – especially when it comes to issues in healthcare. This course really connected to my personal goals of immersing myself in a Spanish-speaking culture and traveling independently. The course pushed me to take the language skills that I practiced in the classroom out into the real world. It was such a unique learning experience to speak comfortably with native speakers in Ecuador. 

I was most nervous to figure out my SIM card while traveling abroad! I would tell another student to just use an eSIM card like Airalo or to just invest in the international plan with their cell phone company to save yourself the stress and hassle. 

Briana and other students taking a selfie

My favorite memory from the trip would be meeting our tour guide, Camila!! It was so fun to just hang out with her in mundane moments like bus rides or evening dinner adventures. I learned so many useful tidbits about Ecuadorian culture with Camila. She taught us a lot of slang and showed us the best brands to buy from (like Paccari chocolate!). One of my favorite experiences would be enjoying a traditional pamba mesa meal with the locals. While it was a bit of an altitude challenge, I enjoyed climbing the Andes mountains. We were able to relax in the natural hot springs afterwards in Termas de Papallacta. 

Other memorable experiences from my time in Ecuador would be exploring Old Town Quito, petting llamas, admiring the handiwork in Otavalo market, and traveling to “Mitad del Mundo” to stand on both hemispheres of the world at once!

Now that I am a few months removed from our adventures, the thing that has stuck with me the most from the class was the importance of being culturally competent. This is something that I was able to develop during my time abroad and something that I have carried with me ever since. 

Group of student standing on mountain top during hike through Andes Mountains

As a pre-health student, this experience connected with my professional goals because it gave me a chance to see how the healthcare system operates in a culture and country that is different from my own. I learned that healthcare is free in Ecuador, but that comes with a cost. I also got to meet with indigenous midwives and explore herbal medicinal gardens. I learned the impacts of pesticides used in flower plantations on the health of communities. Additionally, I made connections with health professionals that I wouldn’t have been able to without participating in this program. 

If I had to give advice to another student considering a global program like AHS 3004: Health in Ecuador, I would definitely say this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of experiential learning. At the same time, keep an open mind and be flexible to whatever comes your way. This mindset will prove to be invaluable on your journey and whatever career path you find yourself in.