Cultural Perspectives: Stories from VT Ecuador Study Abroad

Language Barriers

Being in Ecuador made me realize how hard it can be for people to communicate when you don’t speak the same language. It makes you feel as though you are very far from the person speaking the other language because you cannot communicate back. It makes it hard to get to know the other if you don’t speak the same languages. However, I see this feeling as an amazing opportunity to learn more and to try my hardest to understand and speak other languages. This barrier is very easy to break as well with universal signs. People ask me why I laugh all the time. There are many reasons to laugh and be happy, and one lesson that I have learned on this trip is that laughter is universal. No matter where you are, no matter what the language barrier is, laughter is a sound that everyone knows. There was a group of kids waiting with their families when we got dropped off at a check point. We all started to play games with the toys that Dr. Hopkins had brought for them. There was one little girl who was very shy and didn’t say a word as she started to play the game as well. After a little while, with no words spoken, we were playing the game and laughing. At the end when we all had to leave, the little girl got up with me and shook my hand. She walked me to my luggage and continued to wave goodbye even when I had gotten on the bus. All the while sharing no words. This was an amazing experience. There can be so much done with just a smile and some laughter. However, I do have a new desire to learn more languages so that I can really get to know the people that I am around and have connections that I would have never thought I would get to have.

– Written by Georgia Martin, Undergraduate Student studying Fish and Wildlife Conservation within the College of Natural Resources

Georgia playing with toy sapos, or frogs, with Huaorani children in their home along Shiripuno River.

Trying New Foods

One of the main experiences of traveling abroad is trying new foods. Even if there aren’t new foods to try, there are probably different cuisines. Ecuador is a Latin American country, and staples such as plantains, rice, and beans are common in meals. Another big staple for Ecuador is yucca or manioc. Yucca is a new food for me that I have really enjoyed. Three course meals are common here and typically start with a soup and end with a dessert. The desserts are usually fruit based. A common fruit used in desserts is the tree tomato, but fruits aren’t only served for dessert. Breakfast normally comes with fruit as well as fruit juice. The fruit juices here are exotic compared to what we drink in the USA. Some of my favorite are blackberry juice, pineapple juice, and passion fruit juice. Another popular Ecuadorian drink I got to try is an oat based drink called Quaker that consists of oats blended with milk. Also unlike in the USA, the main meal in Ecuador is lunch rather than dinner. It’s the biggest meal and the most important for plans. My personal favorite food from Ecuador is the bananas, I’ve found them much more flavorful. Bananas with chocolate sauce was definitely the best combination that I tried while in Ecuador.

– Written by Leah Perdue, Undergraduate Student studying Biological Sciences within the College of Science

Bananas with chocolate sauce.