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An elevated Ecuadorian education

February 7, 2019

Perspectives change when the world is seen from an elevated viewpoint. Recently, a dozen College of Idaho students experienced elevated living and learning as they traveled to Ecuador during the three-week winter term as part of the study abroad program.

The trip to the small South American country was educational, encompassing class-credit courses in Biology, Spanish, and Health & Human Performance. The experience, according to those involved, was irreplaceable.

“I thought the trip went really well overall,” said Jennie Daniels, Associate Professor of World Language Literature and Culture, who was one of two faculty members on the trip. “We were in people’s homes, we were in clinics; we even went to a community center that had an event every Wednesday for elderly people.”

The trip, part of The College of Idaho’s Study Abroad program, was aimed at, but not limited to, students interested in medical fields and students interested in Spanish-speaking opportunities.

“I wish everybody could study abroad. To me, that’s a really important thing,” said Luke Daniels, Associate Professor of Biology. “It’s important for students, for people in general, to see another culture and to see and experience other ways of living and things that would challenge your own cultural assumptions.”

Along with the work in the clinics, the students were able to encounter urban conditions they are unlikely to find in the United States. A portion of the trip was spent in the Ecuadorian capitol city of Quito, which sits in the Andes Mountains at an elevation of nearly 9,500 feet above sea level, which made it ideal for exploring biological and physiological concepts during the trip. Only a handful of small towns in the Rocky Mountain region of the United States can match that elevation.

The students spent some meaningful time at Damien House during the trip, the only residential hospital in Ecuador that treats patients suffering from Hansen’s Disease, commonly referred to as leprosy. Both professors said there is a social stigma to the disease, despite its treatability. Damien House treats people both as inpatients and outpatients. It also runs a community outreach program that helps those who have been treated and cured to secure a home, find work, and participate in community activities so that they may return to living full lives.

The trip also included some time for sight-seeing, exploration and fun.

“The highlight of my trip was certainly the opportunity to try a zip line for the first time,” admitted Nicole Jordan, a senior double-majoring in Biomedical Sciences and Spanish. “It was a really rewarding experience that pushed me to step outside my comfort zone, both in terms of the actual act and in my language proficiency interacting with the zip line operators.”

Both professors say the goal is to offer the Ecuador trip every other year, meaning it likely would be available again during winter term of the 2020-21 academic calendar. Other students spent their winter term in Belize, on the eastern coast of Central America near Guatemala and Honduras, to study Biology and Environmental Studies while even more stayed in the United States for a trip to Stanley, Idaho, where they focused on Ecology and Environmental Studies.

“You learn a lot about yourself and about other people,” Luke Daniels concluded. “I’d just love it if all of our students could have those same types of experiences.”

Jordan has traveled abroad before, but this was her first opportunity to study abroad, and she agrees the experience is one that should be shared by more students.

“I would highly recommend a study abroad experience to all students to be exposed to new cultures and, often times, new languages,” Jordan said. “I feel like this trip allowed me to develop my Spanish speaking skills well beyond any classroom experience.”

The College of Idaho has a 128-year-old legacy of excellence. The C of I is known for its outstanding academic programs, winning athletics tradition and history of producing successful graduates, including seven Rhodes Scholars, three governors, and countless business leaders and innovators. Its distinctive PEAK Curriculum challenges students to attain competency in the four knowledge peaks of humanities, natural sciences, social sciences and a professional field—empowering them to earn a major and three minors in four years. The College’s close-knit, residential campus is located in Caldwell, where its proximity both to Boise and to the world-class outdoor activities of southwest Idaho’s mountains and rivers offers unique opportunities for learning beyond the classroom.  For more information, visit