Soaring Over Ecuador

As this academic week closed to an end, the excitement amongst us grew. It’s one thing to be traveling to another country to study abroad, with programs and activities set up as a part of academia. However, it’s another thing to be able to travel freely on your own with no prepared schedule- just wanderlust and spontaneity (and maybe some planning on Facebook messenger) leading the day.
This weekend was our first four-day weekend, so naturally, all of us had decided to make use of this free time and travel to one of the most well-known attractions of Ecuador: Baños! But do not let the name fool you- Baños has some of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen.
We left not so bright and early to meet at the IES center on a Saturday morning to jump into our tightly packed (but very affordable, thank you Valeria!) traveling tourist van. After eating our packed to-go breakfasts from our wonderful host families and many cat naps later, we arrived in Baños three hours later. We stayed at a…

Touching the Clouds ☁️

- 07.12.17 -
On this day, all 13 students of the Ecuador Global Seminar made their way to Pichincha Volcano to participate in one of the many tourist attractions: The Teleferico! This is a gondola-like style lift that allows its visitors to witness a magnificent view of the city. With a 13,000 ft. altitude overlooking Quito -- it's an experience that'll leave you feeling like you were on top of the world. Aside from the exhilarating ride up and spectacular view, there are several hiking trails that offer a visit to a chapel, pictures with adorable llamas, and many other panoramic views.
When we were up there, we were not left short of opportunities to further observe and analyze the social interactions between the people of Ecuador. There was one large group in particular that caught my attention: there were two women handling multiple children at a time, and the whole scene looked chaotic, but there was one comment that initially drew me to notice this family. One of the wom…

A Ronda of Applause to Chocolate, Art, and Wind Desserts


It’s 2:00 PM on a Tuesday, so the obvious move is to visit the famous, “La Ronda Street” for an original Ecuadorian chocolate presentation, an art tour, and an Empanadas de Aires/Canelazo tasting.

There is so much to Quito and Ecuador in general, but on this day we got the opportunities to observe and participate in multiple things that add up to traditional Ecuadorian culture. For starters, we began our evening at Chez•Tiff Artesanal Chocolate, where we received a thorough presentation on the making of pure chocolate, something Ecuador is famous for. Not only were we able to taste 80% dark chocolate, but a few brave volunteers received hand massages with pure cocoa butter. Let’s just say, most if not ALL of us left with a little piece of delicious chocolate with soft hands!

On to the next stop, our guide Rodrigo took the group to an in-the-wall museum which hosted one side full of pieces made entirely of plastic while the other displayed capsule rooms such as a barbershop, dini…

Quito Parks

To the inhabitants of Quito, the parks and pets are no joke.

In my opinion, the parks here in Quito have a lot more to offer and are better maintained compared to those of the United States. The parks in Quito are almost always teeming with people during the early mornings and afternoons. Many families bring their children for a quick snack; children gather together to play soccer; teenagers even come to the park to make out. The parks here are respected and utilized by people of all ages. As a foreigner visiting these parks, I can tell that the park is a cherished locale for the people.

My host mom lives a block away from Parque La Carolina, which is located in the heart of Quito. According to The Metropolitan Public Company for Mobility and Public Works of Ecuador, La Carolina spans 165.5 acres and has become the most visited public space in Quito. Okay, are you ready for it? La Carolina has soccer fields, basketball courts, tennis courts, a children's play area, an adult exerc…

Our Goodbyes to San Clemente

Written by Nicole Wells

This morning (8 July 2017) the students of our seminar in Ecuador woke up for the last time in the indigenous San Clemente community. The air was warmer than the night before. With the persistent wake-up call of roosters outside our window, we quickly got dressed and ready to eat breakfast with our temporary family and complete our minga project.

At breakfast Sara, Katie and I got the unlikely chance of speaking with our house dad, who was often out late and gone early for work. Sara spoke Spanish fluently with our house parents, who speak Quechua and Spanish. Katie fumbled her way through her Spanish knowledge, and I listened as Sara translated into English for me. I can understand about half of the Spanish I hear from my knowledge of French and was later able to use my French and English to communicate with a Canadian who moved into San Clemente the night before. Clearly, language has a lot of influence in this community, and our breakfast conversation natura…

Our Second Day in San Clemente

Most of the students had awoken at the brisk of the sunrise to help their host families make breakfast.  I was no different. We were all tiresome, but excited for what was planned for the day. At 7 am sharp, my housemates and my home stay mother started to prepare our breakfast. We made tortillas from wheat and cooked them outside. While outside, we encountered many of the pets our home stay mom Rosa had. Those pets included dogs, chickens, cows, and even an alpaca. After making the tortillas, my housemates and I had taken a few minutes to try to take photos of all these animals. This was our best attempt at trying to take a photo of the baby chicks. After we had taken a moment to admire all of the farmland and the animals in the area, Katie, Nicole, and I helped set the  breakfast  table with our host mother Rosa.During this time we spent time talking about the places each of us were from and about the cultures that we come from. Rosa began to tell us the story of how her grandfather…

First Day of Imbabura Excursion

The group kicked off our journey to San Clemente Community early Thursday morning. On our way to Ibarra, the city where the indigenous people live next to, we stopped by to overlook Nevado Cayambe, the only volcano in Ecuador that passes through the equator. The group then visited the original Bizcocho shop that promoted this delicious cuisine to the entire country.

The indigenous people living in San Clemente welcomed us with the Pampa Mesa traditional meal. Community members brought their homemade food to share with all of us. Before we ate, the collective group formed into a circle, hand in hand. The cultural tourism leader Manuel then welcomed all of us into this closely connected family. The community members insisted on us getting the food first. The two girls from San Clemente stood next to their mothers and observed how adults served the food to the guests. This behavior corresponds to the Bolin’s Book, “Growing up in a Culture of Respect," and psychologist Rogoff’s art…

Our Third Day in Quito

“Beep! Beep! Beep!” The loud bellow of my alarm broke the silence after I had put it on snooze for the 5th time. Like most students, I was still settling in and adjusting to the new time zone and was exhausted from the activities the day before. I forced myself to crawl out from under the warm covers. Slowly but surely, I began to dress and continue with my daily routine of getting ready. The house was so silent, I became conscious of the sound my footsteps had made on the wooden floor. I was attempting to not wake anyone else who may be sleeping but was failing horribly. When I had finally finished getting ready for class, I made my way into the living room,where I saw my housemate Katie waiting for our breakfast to be ready. It was 8 in the morning and our host mom was nowhere to be found. Confused, we both decided to pass the time by completing some readings that would be due soon. Minutes later, our host mom came through the front door with grocery bags in hand. “Good morning girl…

Beginning our studies

Written by Nicole Wells
After this beautiful but long day of being introduced to our temporary home, our Global Seminar students had the first day of classes on Tuesday. We collectively confessed that in exhaustion we had not finished the homework readings, but agreed that we were excited for how we will grow throughout our two classes. After course introductions and discussions on the unique cultures (within Ecuador, the United States, and China) that shape our differences in development, our group went out for a game of soccer. Onlookers came to watch and laugh with us as we fumbled through this sport that few of us were familiar with, except for our new friend and IES staff member Juan Carlos.

IES, a non-profit Institute for International Education of Students, partnered with UCSD to provide classrooms, educational and travel resources, tour guides, and travel plans for our trip. This organization has over 30 locations worldwide to provide similar programs for other students in the…

Bienvenido a Ecuador!

Bienvenido a Ecuador!

Thirteen students from UCSD and UCSC started our journey in the most biodiverse country in the world!

On Monday, we first had general orientations from IES Abroad office director and health and safety workshop from the humorous physician Javier Caicedo.

In the afternoon, we went on an exciting field trip,“Colonial City Tour,” with the tour guide Marcelo Guerra. We first visited the church, Basilica del Voto Nacional, which was carried out by the Catholic president, José María Plácido Caamaño on March 5, 1884. Rumor has it that the president was assassinated partially because of his huge expense on building this church. The group had a fun time ascending to the top of the church and got a great symmetric view of the city. La Basilica is also famous for its animal statues. On the front side, it has birds figures of the Highland, Galapagos, and the Amazon region.

We then drove south to visit the golden leaves decorated church, La Compania, which was built from 1605…