Name: Ethan Ley
Hometown: Jaffrey, NH
Varsity sport(s) participate in: Cross Country, Indoor and Outdoor Track & Field
Study abroad semester and location: Spring 2013, Quito, Ecuador
What were the three most important things you packed in your suitcase and why?
#1, A nice LL Bean rain jacket because the spring in Quito is known as the rainy season as it lies a mere 40 kilometers south of the equator. #2, My running shoes that I used to hike, run and pretty much explore all over Ecuador. #3, One bottle of SPF 30 sunscreen because Quito lies at a little under 3000 meters (9000+ feet) above sea level, meaning the sun is very quick to burn in that area.
What was your favorite place in your host city/country?
My favorite place in Quito would certainly be the Parque Metropolitano Guangüiltagua located on the eastern side of the city. It's the largest park in the city and probably the most underutilized. As a runner I loved the single-track trails that snake throughout the park in nearly every direction and include some of the best views of the Cumbayá valley in which the Universidad San Francisco de Quito is located.
What was your proudest/most exciting moment abroad?
My most exciting moment abroad was certainly when I summited Volcán Cotopaxi, nearly 6000 meters (19,000+ feet) above sea level. Coming to the top I had never been more exhausted from a climb but relieved to have made it, only to realize the way back down would be even more difficult.
Has the time you spent abroad changed the way you think about your athletic experience or your sport in general?
Being abroad helped me to personally reinforce the idea that I will always be a student first and an athlete second. I suffered a couple minor running related setbacks during my time in Ecuador which really upset me during my time there. Fortunately I took the time I needed to heal and simply made myself remember that I was in Ecuador to get outside of my comfort zone and explore, not to train at high altitude. It helped to me to requantify my athletic experiences in a way that I understand how they help and reinforce the learning I do on campus at Beloit College as well as off campus.
Did being an athlete provide you with any advantages while you were abroad? If yes, what were they?
As a runner, being at the high altitudes of Quito and the other high mountains of Ecuador I certainly didn't struggle with physical exertion to the extent that many other students did that I met during my time there. This was a pretty large advantage for me personally as I was able to explore more of the mountains and the surrounding areas more easily than some of my compatriots simply because having a running background prepares you for great physical challenges that many others were not prepared for.
Some words of advice for other athletes who want to study abroad:
As the mega corporation Nike says so succinctly: JUST DO IT. Beloit affords all of its students great opportunities to study off campus and there genuinely is no good reason for an athlete to not study abroad. Of course you will miss a season of whatever sport you may play, but the benefits of stepping outside of your comfort zone and exploring cultures, countries, peoples, etc... in a way that you may never be able to again outweighs the immediate benefits of remaining on campus simply to continue with a sport. Of course your coaches will wince at this idea at times, but we are here at Beloit to learn and explore more than anything else, and studying abroad is one of the foremost ways in which we can engage and stretch the limits of our own learning.