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Nathan Marquard Reflects on His Experience in Quito, Ecuador

Program and Location:

Universidad San Francisco de Quito; Quito, Ecuador

Why did you choose to study abroad?

Ever since I watched a documentary in class junior year of high school, I was fixated on travelling to South America. I think that was a big reason I studied Sustainable Development and Spanish coursework. When the opportunity arose to go to Quito for my last semester, I just couldn’t pass it up. It gave me the perfect opportunity to practice Spanish, learn more about a culture than I ever could in a classroom, and round out my resume right before I started applying for jobs. It was the easiest decision I ever made!

What did you learn about yourself?

I learned a lot about how I adapt to unfamiliar situations and cultures. Living with a host family and using a new language all while taking classes was certainly a challenge, and I found out a lot about how I handle those situations. 6 months ago, if you told me I would have had to navigate across Ecuador without a phone because I accidentally left it in a bus terminal, I could not have imagined myself doing it. But here I am, and I’m a better person because of my experience.

What was one of your favorite parts of your program?

Studying abroad in Ecuador gave me the opportunity to see diversity that I don’t think most programs allow. Just within a 5 hour bus ride from the capital, I could summit a 15,000 ft volcano, visit the Amazon rain forest, take a dip in the Pacific Ocean, or even go bungee jumping in the most beautiful canyon I’d ever seen! Ecuador is a wonderfully diverse country that made my inner environmental self overjoyed, and the people are so excited and willing to share it with you.

What advice do you have to future study abroad students?

The most I ever second-guessed myself was in the car on the way to the airport before I left. But the unfamiliarity, the uneasiness, the turbulence of that change – THAT’S where the adventure begins. The fun of studying abroad is in the unknown, all the experiences that you don’t have yet and feel so far away when you think about leaving for so long. But every second is worth it.

How did your study abroad experience prepare you for your future career?

Studying abroad in Ecuador for my last semester set me up very well to enter the Peace Corps. My interviewer was impressed that I’d already had 3 months experience living and studying in a South American country, and all that practice I’ve had navigating and speaking Spanish will be very helpful when I move to Paraguay in September. For anyone with aspirations of working internationally or travelling for a living, studying abroad is the perfect way to learn about yourself in those situations, and will always be impressive to an interviewer!

Would you do it again?

If I didn’t graduate, in a heartbeat.