I <3 Ecuador

Two posts in one week?  Here I am again, sitting down to write my fourth blog post of this summer.  Tours have been picking up!  I assume with the start of summer vacation, many high school seniors are really starting to think more seriously about college.  I remember when I finished my junior year.  I had no idea how close I was to finishing such an important chapter of my life and starting a new, brilliant chapter filled with academics, great friends, and unforgettable experiences both in NYC and beyond.

I don't think I ever mentioned the study abroad opportunities that Wagner has offered me and since it is a frequently asked question when I give tours, I decided to write a little bit about my personal experiences.

One of my very first weeks at Wagner, I joined Habitat for Humanity.  At the very first meeting, we learned about a build that would happen at the end of the semester.  Ecuador was the destination.  At first, I didn't believe it would actually happen.  How could I have this amazing opportunity before I even finished a year of college?  Believe it or not, it happened.  One member of Habitat for Humanity, she just graduated in May, is actually from Ecuador.  So with her careful guidance and planning, and the great hospitality of her family and her country, a group of 12 of us journeyed to Ecuador, located on the north western coast of South America.  Although we only spent five days there, we made enough memories and learned enough lessons to last a lifetime.  We spent two days in the city of Cuenca building homes for some of the happiest and most genuine families I've ever met.  We were also able to spend time in Ambato and Quito which were both beautiful in their own way.  The twelve students that I traveled with are still close friends of mine.  The things we experienced in Ecuador are hard to put into words.  We experienced such a different culture and way of life and we all grew so much in those five days.  We learned from each other, ourselves, and the people and culture of Ecuador.

This past fall semester, I learned that my experience in Ecuador connected directly to New York City, more specifically Port Richmond.  Remember, Port Richmond is a small community on Staten Island just ten minutes from Wagner's campus.  As a requirement for one of the education classes I took last fall, I spent hours in a middle school in Port Richmond.  I was lucky enough to shadow the ESL (English as a second language) teacher for about ten weeks.  On my first day in the school, I was introduced to two young sixth graders, their backpacks & imaginations filled to the rims.  I was nervous but quickly started to make conversation in Spanish with  two students the teacher worked closely with.  One of the young girls told me she was from Mexico.  I told her how much I love Mexico and how my favorite teacher is also from Mexico.  I turned to the other girl and was pleasantly surprised when she told me she was from Cuenca, Ecuador.  She grew up in the very city I had built homes in less than a year earlier.  Her face lit up when I told her I had been there and that I also loved Ecuador as much as I loved Mexico.  Although my experience in Ecuador was eye opening and I reflected on it a lot since, I never thought my experience would relate so directly to my life in America, never mind my life in New York City... never mind my life in Port Richmond!  I spent the rest of my ten weeks in that middle school learning more and more about these two young students, their former lives in Mexico & Ecuador, and about myself.

Thanks to Wagner, I had the opportunity to go to Ecuador.  Thanks to Ecuador, I was able to experience something so authentic and awe inspiring.  Thanks to Port Richmond, I was able to connect those experiences with my

Some of the family we were building for and some of the volunteers we worked with in Cuenca, Ecuador.

Some of the family we were building for and some of the volunteers we worked with in Cuenca, Ecuador.

Driving through the Andes to where we built houses in Cuenca, Ecuador.

Driving through the Andes to where we built houses in Cuenca, Ecuador.

life in NYC.

I guess it is a small world after all.



Author: Kellie Griffith

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