Quito, Ecuador is home to the Universidad San Francisco de Quito (USFQ). Tulane University participates in a direct enrollment exchange program with this university, which was founded in 1988 and is now one of the top private universities in Ecuador with the largest international exchange program in the region. It is also the only liberal arts university in Ecuador, and unlike other Latin American universities who are in session from July to March, it follows the U.S. academic calendar. It is located about 15 minutes from the city center, and is surrounded by natural beauty and mountains. In addition, rainforests and breathtaking hikes are located within reach. Quito is a truly diverse city with both modern and traditional influences, and is home to around two million people. Students are required to live in a homestay and are directly enrolled with native USFQ students, making the program highly immersive.
I interviewed Tulane Junior Caroline Fox to find out more about her experience.
Q: Did you study in the fall or the spring? What was the weather like during that time?
I studied in the fall. The weather in Quito was usually in 60s and overcast, and sometimes it would randomly downpour. It was always about ten degrees hotter where the university was located because it was lower in the valley. And of course the weather would vary depending on where you traveled to, with the mountains being colder and dryer and the coast being hotter and more humid.
Q: What was the highlight of your experience?
I think the highlight of my experience was probably all of the traveling I did within Ecuador. Ecuador has the Andes mountains, the amazon, the coast, and cities and I had no idea about before living there. Traveling was a great opportunity to bond with new people, both other international students, and with Ecuadorians. It was very easy and inexpensive to hop on a bus, and within an hour or two you could be in a completely new region and atmosphere, and that was something completely new and exciting to me. The nature that I saw while traveling was really incredible and felt so untouched which made every trip really special and unique.
Q: How challenging were your classes? What was the language of instruction?
My classes were in both English and Spanish. My international relations classes were both in English and one was very difficult and the other one was a breeze. It really depended on the professor and their expectations. My other classes were fairly easy, but you did have to put in work and make an effort. A lot of the grades came from presentations, so I had to really push myself out of my comfort zone and do a lot of public speaking which was difficult for me at times. And then my service learning class required 80 hours of community service, so I had to teach English at a school a couple times a week. Getting those hours in was difficult at times, but definitely the most rewarding class and taught me the most about myself.
Q: Did you feel as though you had time to travel on the weekends?
I had a ton of time to travel on the weekends. I had classes Monday through Thursday, so it was very easy to travel for a decent amount of time. Traveling did not have to require much planning beforehand, maybe an hour or two of organizing, so to pull off a fun trip was really pretty effortless. I did have to take a few weekends off though to knock out work and stay on top of my schoolwork, but it never felt like I was missing out because there was just as much exploring to do around Quito and the university. I traveled all around Ecuador and also went to Peru and the Galapogos.
Q: In terms of spending money, were things more or less expensive than in the U.S.?
Things were a lot less expensive in Ecuador. I for sure spent money as I was traveling a lot, but what I spent the most money on was big trips, such as Peru and the Galapagos. Food was relatively cheap in Ecuador, although some nicer restaurants and healthy spots were more expensive. Hostels were usually under $20 a night and bus tickets were always under $10, and you can get anywhere in the country by bus. Also, taxis around the city were so much cheaper.
Q: What were some of the biggest adjustments you underwent living in this new city?
One big adjustment for me was living with a host family. I lived with just one older woman, but it was tricky getting used to living with an adult after coming from college. I had to report to her everywhere I was going and at what time I would be home, which took some serious adjusting to, because I felt like I was losing an independence that I was used to.
The Spanish was also an adjustment, and I had to gain a lot of confidence in myself. I had to really adapt to situations and not be so dependent on others, whether that was for language help or general advice and questions.
Quito and USFQ are for the adventurous soul. Despite being a modern city, Quito is surrounded by incredible natural beauty, and students should want to take advantage of these opportunities. The Office of International Programs also offers affordable trips to explore other parts of Ecuador, Peru, and even the Galapagos Islands. In addition, any student applying to this program should have a hunger for Spanish fluency and a desire to be immersed in an entirely new culture. Homestays are required and direct enrollment means that there is no distinction academically between USFQ and Tulane students. It is a truly immersive and unique opportunity, far different than that of a European or Australia abroad experience, and prospective students should understand this. If natural beauty, cultural exploration, and mastering Spanish sounds like your dream, then USFQ might be the place for you.
Photos: Caroline Fox
COVER GRAPHIC: Emery Gluck