Student enriches education through study abroad in Ecuador

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — From the day she first became a Penn State student, Janki Patel knew she wanted to study abroad in a Spanish-speaking country. A senior double-majoring in energy business and finance (EBF) and Spanish, Patel chose Ecuador for its diverse landscape, the opportunity to improve her Spanish language skills, and to learn about the country’s energy sector.

Patel studied in Ecuador during the summer 2015 semester and every day was filled with new experiences. She took several classes related to Spanish and international business at Universidad San Francisco de Quito. In one of her courses, she learned about the effects of energy generation on local tribes through a case study on a new drilling project in the region. In an international business course, she learned about public policy and the language of business in Ecuador.

Because the courses were taught in Spanish, Patel enhanced her Spanish skills by interacting with native speakers in the classroom.

“Living in a Spanish-speaking country and interacting with the community forces you to learn the language very quickly,” she said.

Patel lived with a host family in Lumbisi, an indigenous village — a community of native people — located approximately 3 miles southeast of Quito, the capital of Ecuador and home to more than 2.5 million residents. Her host mother, a farmer, and her host father, a carpenter, also had two children in their 20s living in the house.

“My village had a small, rural feel, which contrasted with the large, industrial city of Quito not far down the road,” Patel said. “Being exposed to this community really helped to increase my knowledge of Spanish, too.”

In her free time, she volunteered at a local preschool where she interacted with children and taught them how to play games and sing songs. She also had the opportunity to visit and learn about Ecuador’s biodiversity.

“The scenery in Ecuador is absolutely amazing. From the Galapagos, to the Andes, to the Amazon and all of the animals that inhabit these places, it was so beautiful. I learned a considerable amount about the wildlife and ecosystems in these places,” she said.

Patel points to many reasons for studying abroad through Penn State, most notably the unique cultures students will encounter.

“Other countries have such fascinating languages, cultures and education systems. In a global economy, it’s important to be able to work in a diverse workplace and make connections, and I think the study abroad experience — no matter where you go — provides you with the tools to do so,” Patel said.

Patel will always be a little biased toward Ecuador, of course.

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Last Updated January 21, 2016