BY SARAH ALLISON
Franciscan University’s Ecuador Summer Spanish Immersion Program, a pilot program integrating a mission trip with six credits of Spanish classes, experienced plenty of glitches last year.
The weather in the high altitude was colder than expected, and there were quite a few communications mix-ups at the internship sites where students volunteered. However, there were also trips to different historic monasteries and churches in and around the city of Quito. During these trips, students had the chance to try local foods such as guinea pig and even swim in a volcanic lake.
Nevertheless, the greatest highlights were the relationships fostered throughout the trip.
Student Catherine Cahill called it a “summer of growth, of learning to be flexible and keeping joy no matter how much things change or how difficult they get.”
Ultimately, out of all the rich and varied experiences, her favorite parts were the moments when she had a chance to sit down and spend time better getting to know the people she met, whether they were children, adults, hospital patients or young women at the local home for single mothers.
This summer, students and faculty will again stay at a retreat center outside Quito, Ecuador. In between six credits’ worth of 200-level and 300-level Spanish classes and daily Mass and prayer, they will work at Spanish-speaking internship sites: a hospital, a special needs school and a local parish. Sundays are cultural days during which they can see some of the sights of Ecuador.
Last year’s schedule of classes in the morning and internships in the afternoon turned out to be difficult for nursing students, who had a two-hour commute to the hospital in Quito. This summer, the schedule will alternate between full days of classes and full days at internship sites.
The other difference is that the program will now be seven weeks long rather than six. The fourth week will be a break of sorts during which students will work at an orphanage on the coast and have the opportunity for a brief retreat as well as for surfing lessons. There will also be a renewed focus on the Spanish immersion aspect of the program.
Rhett Young, director of Missionary Outreach, said that all of his notes taken during meetings, along with the students’ evaluations, have gone into creating this new program.
“We learned a lot,” said Young. “Everybody’s evaluations that came back said that they had a life-changing experience. Everyone said they’d go back again, but were there things that could have been better? Yes.”
Franciscan student Andrew Koehler, who led the team that visited the special needs school, said that due to its length, which makes it unique among other Franciscan mission trips, the Ecuador mission allows students to “better connect to the people by being steeped in their culture and daily routine for almost two months.”
Although the program will be very different this year, it is the same in spirit. Young hopes that subsequent years will continue to build off each other and improve.
The program runs from June 10 to July 31, with the $5,500 cost including room and board, transportation and tuition. The deadline for deposits is Feb. 13, and there are currently three spaces left.