UMD: A Globally Connected University

Ashley Brown

ProgramUMD-Winter: Ecuador (CPSP/LASC) 
Term: Winterterm 2018
Major: Communication

[Studying abroad] definitely fulfilled my expectations as a first time traveler outside of the United States. It prepared me to fail and fail and fail again in this life. To be a student, you have to experience failure. That's the only way to learn. I failed many times in Ecuador, whether it had to do with speaking Spanish or falling all the time while hiking in the Amazon rainforest. Due to failing, my pronunciation, grammar, and understanding of the different terms used in Ecuador improved and I learned how to place my feet better and maintain focus while hiking. I also was able to form new and invaluable friendships with students at the University of Cuenca and my UMD peers who I had never met before. Overall, this experience helped me to be more confident in who I am as a person and my abilities. 

Advice for future #TerpsAbroad: In Ecuador, a majority of the population is mestizo and there is a problem with gender violence, especially toward women. Therefore, as a black women, I was a little apprehensive. However, I took the advice of some of my traveling inspirations. They reminded me to not let how other people see me inhibit me from living my life. I would like to pass this advice along. Sure, you should always be cautious and do research before you go, but never let your identity stop you from seeing the world. 

My most memorable experience would be meeting my host mom's grandchildren who were already learning French in school and were going to soon start learning English.They were 5 and 7 years old and were teaching me some French phrases and nouns. I had already begun learning French by myself, but these two kids made me want to learn more. That night that I met them reminded me of why I started learning Spanish in the first place and why I decided to be brave and leave my comfort zone to study abroad. 

Advice for future #TerpsAbroad:  The best way to practice compassion, open-mindedness, and empathy, is to quite literally live the way other people do. And you can do this by studying abroad! 

The biggest challenges [of studying abroad] were just adapting to inconsistent WiFi and sometimes running into language barriers. I adjusted to these challenges by seeing the positive in them. Inconsistent WiFi meant not paying attention to my phone so much, thus living in the present moment. The language barriers reminded me that I was a student and was there to learn from the mistakes I made.