"As much as you think you do, I don’t think you really understand a culture until you’re living in it and being affected by it." —Alice S.
Alice is a sociology major who spent an entire year studying with the MSID program in Ecuador. She interned with an NGO in a rural community, and learned about Ecuadorian culture and national development through her experience there and her coursework on the program.
Alice's MSID courses were interdisciplinary, and many different subject areas were represented. She had professors specializing in philosophy, culture, and economics, who each brought a unique perspective to the study of development. She gained credit both for her major and her minor in Spanish. She thought that living in another culture supported her study of sociology, which looks at cultures and groups. She also found that her experience helped her understand the concept of globalization from a firsthand perspective. “It’s given me a broader perspective to see the world from,” she said. “Before I went, I probably would have considered myself a world citizen or a global citizen, rather than just a US citizen, but I think I can own that a little better now.”
One of the skills Alice gained from her time in Ecuador was conducting research. For her courses, she had to write two long papers. “Writing more is definitely easier, and not quite the obstacle that I perceived it to be before,” she said. "For sociology, I might be interested in doing social science research, so I think that was really good experience. It wasn’t something I had to be an expert in initially, it was something I could go into and feel it out, and see how it could be improved, and what I could do to make that work better."
For Alice, working with an NGO in Ecuador was a challenging experience, culturally and personally. She found that she had to “go with the flow” more in her work, because there wasn’t necessarily an established system for problem solving. “I think it forced me to deal with those differences in culture,” she said.
Her responsibilities with the organization covered all of their activities, including community education, children’s programs, and a gardening project that aimed to diversify local gardens. Her work gave her an opportunity to view the way that NGOs function in a developing country. Unfortunately, Alice saw many difficulties with funding and programming, but she now thinks that local organizations can change the way development happens. She said, “I think the most important thing to combat that is trying to create organizations that are internally very strong, within the country, so that they can seek funds in an active manner.” Alice found that her experience helped her overall to integrate and understand Ecuador from more of an inside perspective. “As much as you think you do, I don’t think you really understand a culture until you’re living in it and being affected by it.”
Check out the Learning Abroad Center's MSID Ecuador program.