Ecuador: The Meeting of Cultures exploration seminar

Dear Spanish students:

My name is Sam Jaffee and I am the Program Director leading the “Ecuador: The Meeting of Cultures” “exploration seminar” as an Early Fall study abroad program in Quito, Ecuador (August-September 2017). As a specialist in Andean cultures and literatures, I am very much looking forward to leading the program and to introduce you to the Andes. The purpose of this e-mail message is to share some details of the program that I believe make it attractive, to encourage you to submit an application, and to invite any questions you may have at this time.

The site of the program is Quito, Ecuador. Quito is a four-hour flight from Miami and five or six from Dallas and Houston. These are the most likely cities you will change planes on the way there. The city, which is the national capital, has a population of about 2 million and is located in a high valley, between two mountain ranges, at an altitude of over 9000 feet. While the city is quite large, it is manageable, and the sites of interest to the international traveler are contained in two adjacent areas, the Centro Histórico and La Mariscal, a district of hotels, shops, and restaurants of an international standard. It is a highland city (as opposed to Guayaquil, which is at sea level, and is larger) which will signal to you some important trends in behavioral character, dress, language, accent, and other characteristics.

As a former seat of power in the northern reaches of the Inca empire, Quito has always been home to the quichua culture. Both a language (a linguistic variant of Quechua, which is spoken in the south-central Andes of Peru) and a “language-culture,” Quichua affords its speakers a spiritual sense, an ethnicity, and a community that is very different from a national identity as “Ecuadorean.” You will be exposed to basic Quichua expressions so that you will be able to exchange pleasantries, take leave, and conduct transactions in the market space.

The academic benefits of this program are manifold. You will enjoy a total immersion experience. The program’s academic home is the Escuela Equinoccial, located in the Mariscal district. Classes are small, are taught by local quiteños and quiteñas and are divided by level of ability and designed around the needs of the particular students enrolled. It is not quite a tutoring situation, but it is close. The expectations are rigorous and tend to produce a very positive, intimate dynamic among the students and instruction team. You will improve your skills in the four areas of language learning—listening, reading, writing, and speaking—and you will gain an appreciation for the highland Ecuadorean culture, which will serve as a case study of but one of many facets of contemporary Latin Americanism.

Classes, to be held in the mornings, are but one aspect of the academic program while we are in Quito. The afternoons will feature an array of workshops, field trips, and guided tours to artists’ workshops, museums, historic sites, and other sites of tourist interest around the city, as well as a series of classes in salsa dance and Ecuadorean gastronomy.
Weekends will bring you on overnight excursions around the central valley of Ecuador—to the town of Otavalo, where indigenous women exert an economic control over the weekly market space; to Baños, where many opportunities for recreation present themselves in a mountainous setting; and to the Mitad del Mundo site of the monument at the ecuatorial line.

The city of Quito will serve as our laboratory for a group project of an academic nature that will give you hands-on experience in independent learning and personal discovery. This project will take the form of a cultural investigation into any aspect of contemporary Quito that you notice and deem worthy of study. For example, you could investigate architecture, demography, sociology, health care, athletics, youth culture, religion, social class, politics, music, art/artists, commerce, colonial history, postcolonial society, or any idea within a range of personal or professional interests. Through this project, you will not only learn more about Quito and make it “yours,” you will also develop collegial relationship with your partners and your instructional team, which will help you envision and execute the project.

In pairs, you will stay with a middle-class quiteño family in a homestay situation. This includes all meals while in Quito. This opportunity will enable you to see how a middle class lives in a setting that may be quite different from your expectations or experience in your home country, and to develop empathy and—ideally—a long-lasting relationship with this family.

You will receive 5 UW credits in this program. Students at the advanced Spanish level (i.e., those who have taken Spanish 301 before departure) will receive 5 credits toward the UW Spanish minor. For all students, these 5 credits count toward your Fall Quarter 2017 course load.

In sum, this “exploration seminar” is an excellent way to try out an international living experience for four weeks, increase your knowledge of Spanish, widen your perspective of foreign cultures, gain independence from traveling and studying with peers, feel a sense of accomplishment at doing meaningful work, have fun, increase your desire to further explore the Spanish-speaking world.

In the meantime, I encourage you to submit an application through the UW Study Abroad website ( If you have any further questions about the program, I welcome you to contact me or see me in person. My office hours this winter are Tuesdays/Thursdays at 11:30, in Padelford Hall C-214. If you have any general questions about studying abroad or difficulty in completing an application, you can contact the UW Study Abroad office (

Yours sincerely,
Sam Jaffee
Lecturer, Spanish & Portuguese Studies, UW Seattle
Ecuador_Early_Fall Flyer.pdf


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