Elizabeth Makarewicz'11, Ecuador
[Elizabeth Makarewicz (testimonial 3)]During the spring semester of 2009 I traveled to Quito, Ecuador to study at the Universidad San Francisco de Quito and stay with a host family. While at USFQ I had the opportunity to choose from a variety of courses in Spanish, including topics in Anthropology, Literature, Philosophy, Biology, and Psychology. A component of my program required me to take a sociology course that included field trips to several sites throughout the country. In this course I used field notes taken during our trips to make sense of theory we learned in class.
My experience complemented my majors of Spanish and Anthropology in fairly obvious ways. My level of comfort in speaking Spanish has gone up tremendously and I believe I now have a good understanding of Ecuadorian culture. Prior to traveling to Ecuador I wrote papers and studied books to prepare myself. However, I soon learned that textbooks and professors would only teach me a small percentage of what I was capable of learning. In Ecuador I eventually learned to independently make sense of the set of experiences I had amassed over the semester (even if I spent most of my time there blindly stumbling about for explanations). I will certainly call upon these learning moments during the rest of my time at Beloit and beyond.
Each morning of the school week during my semester in Quito I took a bus from the city to the neighboring suburb where my university was. When the weather was clear and the pollution hadn’t quite settled in for the day, a towering volcano, Cotopaxi, was visible beyond the squalor of the city. I always admired this mountain, hoping to someday reach the tranquility it projected. When the opportunity arose, a friend and I took off, along with a guide, to attempt to scale the volcano just a few days before my departure from the country. However, a snowstorm and a serious bout of altitude sickness prevented us from reaching the summit. We awoke the next morning in the refuge midway up the volcano to clear skies and views that extended for miles. I saw for the fist time on such a great scale the city of Quito, tucked into the valley in front of me. While standing on Cotopaxi, the volcano that had given me some of the most miserable 18 hours of my life, the city appeared serene and harmless.
On Cotopaxi I came to the simple realization that things are never as one-dimensional as they appear. A textbook would never completely explain to me the profound social inequalities that exist in Ecuador, and try as I might to understand the intricacies of the drinking culture my Ecuadorian friends practice, some mystery will always remain. I will never speak the language like a native, because I am not a native, nor do I wish to be. The best I can do is attempt to interpret a culture from a foreigner’s perspective.