FEATURE: Long-distance learning

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Make 2017 the year to say ‘yes!’ to studying abroad

Photo by Sarah Lazin
Photo by Sarah Lazin

For those of us who are always daydreaming about exploring somewhere new, a semester abroad is a no-brainer: experiencing new cultures, trying new foods, meeting new people, and perhaps most importantly, getting to travel while earning university credits? What’s not to love?

UVic boasts of having “active partnership agreements with over 300 post-secondary institutions worldwide,” giving students the opportunity to decide between destinations in Brazil, France, Korea, or Thailand for their next (academic) adventure. Many departments also offer more specific study abroad opportunities, such as field schools.

In my case, I chose to study Spanish in Ecuador. The Hispanic Studies department offers two study abroad locations for Spanish students: Cuenca, Ecuador (for those students completing Spanish 100B or 149) or Alcalá, Spain (for students completing Spanish 250B or 249). As I had only completed beginner-level Spanish (and was running out of semesters in which to study abroad), my choice was simple.

I spent three months in southern Ecuador, earning enough UVic credits to complete a Certificate in Language Proficiency in Spanish. As there were only four of us in the program, we had small, intimate classes tailored to our specific needs. Through the University of Cuenca’s “tandem” program, we were partnered with local students who quickly became close friends. We explored nearly every weekend—sometimes close to home and sometimes across the country. While Ecuador uses the American dollar, food, bus tickets, and accommodations are still very affordable. (Ice cream can almost always be found for under 50 cents.)

Returning home, I found myself fluent(ish) in Spanish, with a memory card full of photos and an addiction to plantain chips. While studying abroad and coping with a language barrier can be challenging, I would wholeheartedly recommend studying abroad to anyone interested, and I’m looking forward to returning to Ecuador in the future.

All photos by Sarah Lazin.