Not many Bluffton University students can say they have been honked at by a taxi, or have had fresh fruit everyday that they have never heard of before, but Shelby Miller has.
Miller, a junior transfer student from Hesston College, is spending this semester in Ecuador with BCA, a study abroad program.
Miller is currently living with a host family in Quito, Ecuador.
“My host mom, Maritza Garcia, is a grandma, and she lives with her elderly father, Miguel and takes care of him,” said Miller. “Her grandchildren live in Costa Rica, so I don’t see them much, but I do have a host brother that also lives in Quito.”
Quito is a large city with about 1.6 million residents. The transportation methods are similar to those of major cities in the United States.
“I take the buses every day to school, and it’s easy and cheap—25 cents per bus ride—to go all over the city,” said Miller. “Of course, if I’m lost, I can always take a taxi, and they know where they’re going.”
Among these there are other similarities as well.
“Family is super important,” said Miller. “And kids are just excited about seeing Moana here as they are in the United States.”
There are also many differences in life in Ecuador compared to the United States.
“People never wear shorts, always wear closed toed shoes. I get kissed on the cheek frequently by people I don’t even know. People are extremely late to social events. There’s always vendors selling things on street corners and on the city buses. Jaywalking is expected, people in traffic honk for no reason, and taxis honk at me because I’m white and they think I’m a tourist,” said Miller.
Miller is an international student at Universidad San Francisco de Quito. She attends classes Monday through Thursday and has Fridays off.
“The past few weekends, I’ve been sightseeing around Quito, getting to know my host family better, and of course, some homework—which is hard to do when I could be doing so many other cool things.”
When she is not traveling or attending classes, Miller is doing service work with an organization known as InSport. On Tuesday and Thursday afternoons she interns with the school’s education department.
InSport is supported by the Ministry of Education.
“It is basically like a junior-high or high school,” said Miller. “Students that enter the program are ones that want to play professional soccer, but of course, not all of them can. Their time with InSport is divided into classroom hours and training hours. If they work hard during their classroom hours, they eventually graduate with a high school diploma.”
Miller is the only student from Bluffton enrolled in the program, however, she is not the only American student there. BCA is utilized by many liberal arts schools throughout the United States. There are other students in Ecuador as well from different universities and colleges.
There are also resident directors there to help guide the students.
“Gradually, I’m realizing that I’m totally fine if I just follow BCA’s instructions,” said Miller.
Living at about 9,000 feet above sea level makes for very cold nights by Ecuador’s standards, but Miller disagrees .
“It’s currently “winter”—the rainy season—so it’s sometimes a bit colder,” said Miller. “Often it rains some in the afternoon and evenings, but overall it’s beautiful. With a sweatshirt or blanket, it’s always comfortable.”
Although homes in Ecuador do not have central air, they do have wifi. The university that Miller is attending also has internet access. This is how many of the students are able to contact their families and friends back in the states.
“BCA recommends not talking excessively to family and friends at home because it can worsen culture shock and takes your attention away from experiencing Ecuador,” said Miller. “I do talk to people from home frequently, but try not to do it excessively.”
“BCA is really great,” said Miller. “I’d highly recommend it so far for students looking to study abroad for a semester.”