Vanessa Emanuel

Blog Post Four: July 26, 2018

Vanessa enjoying the beautiful view at an art museum in Ecuador

Me enjoying the beautiful view at an art museum in Ecuador

Now that I have returned home from my study abroad, I truly have realized just how much growing took place over the course of my time in Ecuador. I became more independent, assimilated myself into an entirely brand-new culture, and learned how to accept other people’s differences. Of course, my Spanish skills skyrocketed to a level I never dreamed I would reach, but now that I am home and trying to adjust back into American society, I realize that I gained so much more than just language skills from this trip.

Looking back on my feelings before this trip, I can’t believe I was so nervous and hesitant about applying for this study abroad program. I am so glad that I didn’t let my fears get the best of me. That’s the most important thing I learned during this study abroad: If I never faced my fear of change or trying new things, I never would have grown or learned new things about myself.

Vanessa and her other program members and I posing at the Equator

My other program members and I posing at the Equator

If you’re considering applying for a study abroad but aren’t sure if it’s something you really want to do, my advice to you is Just go for it. Don’t let your fears of getting rejected, feeling homesick, or new environments scare you into missing out on the opportunity of a lifetime. You’ll never know if you don’t try.

Vanessa and her cohort making Silly faces after visiting a famous old church in Quito called the Basilica

Silly faces after visiting a famous old church in Quito called the Basilica

Being immersed in such rich and vibrant Ecuadorian culture allowed me to learn more about myself, meet new friends using my language skills, and explore and discover beautiful geography and wildlife. I am so certain that I will remember this trip for years to come. The relationships I built with my other program members was one of the best parts about this trip to me. Although I made Ecuadorian friends and built a close relationship with my [host] family, I was so sad and torn having to leave the other students, knowing I would miss them and the memories we shared together. But, knowing that I would be able to recount my times and memories of Ecuador with them is such a comforting thought. This study abroad allowed me to connect and build friendships with people from the University of Washington that I can continue to build on even now at home.

I will always remember the impact that Ecuador had on my life, goals, and career path. I am so
happy I made the decision to embark on this journey, and now can’t imagine how my life would
be if I hadn’t gone. I hope that you’ll have the courage to take the same leap of faith that I did, because I assure you, studying abroad will be an experience you never forget.

Blog Post Three: July 10, 2018

Hey dawgs!

I’m having such a blast here in Ecuador!

Vanessa with a monkey sitting atop her shoulders and head

My new best friend!

I have been soaking in all the culture and been trying to get the most out of every day that I have here because I know my time is limited. The classes I’ve been taking are every day, Monday through Friday, from one in the afternoon to 6pm. Other than that, I have my weekends and mornings free, which I have been taking advantage of to explore the city and the surrounding town of Quito.

During the week I am doing my best on keeping up with my schoolwork and presentations. I am taking two classes and one independent study, where I journal and write essays that reflect on different cultural aspects of my time here in Ecuador. My two classes are Spanish grammar and one literature class about Latin American short stories. Both of these classes are taught in Spanish by Ecuadorian professors. I have been enjoying the material we are given, although at times it is hard, but I know in the end these academic obstacles will help me grow.

I have already noticed how much better my Spanish has gotten in the three and half weeks I have been here. I finally understand certain aspects of the language I wasn’t able to before. One difference I have noticed between classroom settings in the United States and Ecuador is the dynamic between professors and students. In the US, it is common for students to have a good friendship with their professors and even address them by their first name at times. Although my professors here are so funny and friendly, it would be taboo for me to address them like that. Unlike in English where we address people using he\she\you, Spanish uses usted to address people in positions of respect in a formal manner, which is generally used to talk to elders, teachers, grandparents, or anyone you aren’t generally close with.

Vanessa feeding monkeys grapes at La Playa de Los Monos

Feeding monkeys grapes at La Playa de Los Monos

On the weekends I do have free, I have been taking trips to fun sights and towns in Ecuador. This past weekend, my friends and I took a 5-hour bus ride to visit a town called Tena in the Amazon Jungle in Ecuador. It was such a blast! We stayed in a motel-like place, called a hostal, for only 10 dollars a night, which is a price you would never find in the United States! We tasted typical Ecuadorian food, shopped in the artesian markets, and even met some friends who were doing an internship program there. My favorite by far was visiting Puerto Misahualli and La playa de Los Monos, where I was able to swim in the rivers and hold and feed actual monkeys! We also took a river and jungle tour where we floated down the River Misahualli, climbed up a cliff to see a serene waterfall oasis, and got organic Amazon River clay facials from our tour guide! It was such an amazing experience that I didn’t want to leave.

I am looking forward to my last week here in Quito, but am also ready to come home to my loved ones!

Adios Dawgs, 

Vanessa Emanuel

Blog Post Two: June 20, 2018

Hola a todos!

Vanessa and her host sister on the bus

My sister Valentina and I on a bus ride to my host family’s house in the valley of Quito.

Let me just start off by saying I am completely in LOVE with Quito! It’s a city full of great culture, amazing food and nightlife, and it’s perfectly positioned right in the middle of the world! I have been having so much fun getting to know my host family and immersing myself in Ecuadorian culture! The first night I arrived in Quito and met my host parents, they told me to call them Papi Hernan and Mama Ligia. They were so hospitable, warm, and generous! Mama Ligia is an AMAZING cook and makes me traditional Ecuadorian good like arepas, fruits like baboca, and lots of avocados (which are my absolute favorites)!

I have three host siblings but they are all a lot older than me. However, I did meet my host sister Valentina a few days a go and she was so nice and fun! She took me to the artisan market and I saw so many different types of fruits, veggies and trinkets that people were selling.

View of the city of Quito from the Basilica de Voto Nacional

View of the city of Quito from the Basilica de Voto Nacional a beautiful historic Catholic Church in the city. Almost 9,390 feet above sea level!

Other than the different types of food, there are a few cultural things that were disorienting to me at first because they were so much different than the United States. First of all, when any person is introduced to another, stranger or best friend, they kiss one another on the cheek. At first this totally took me by surprise ! But after a few days I grew to love it! The culture here in Quito is a lot warmer and inviting than in the United States, where sometimes we don’t even shake hands with people we’ve known forever when we run into them at the grocery store.

Another thing I had to get used to was the way in which family dynamics work in this type of culture. Generally families in Ecuador and a lot of other Latin American countries share everything, and independence, as well as privacy, are a second priority. Much of the time members of the family don’t shut themselves in their rooms and binge watch Netflix for hours because shut doors and reclusiveness is seen as a sign that something is wrong or that you’re angry.

Vanessa's host family

My host family! Left to right: Mama Ligia, Mi hermana Valentina, Papi Hernan

To me, this is the exact opposite of American culture, where most people pride themselves on their independence and not having to rely on others or living in any type of community. I am learning to work better in this type of family unit and i am LOVING it! My host family is so sweet and thoughtful while also really helping me to increase my Spanish skills and vocabulary. Even though I’m sure I sound like a gringa sometimes, they are always very encouraging.


I am so looking forward to the next few weeks I get to spend here and to discover everything else this beautiful city of Quito has to offer me.


Vanessa Emanuel

Blog Post One: June 6, 2018Vanessa Emanuel

I can’t believe that in three days I’m leaving and will be getting on a plane to Quito, Ecuador, almost 4,200 miles from home. I am so excited and at the same time anxious to see all this program will hold for me, how it will grow my interest in Latino culture and develop my Spanish speaking skills. Never in a million years had I expected to have been offered such an amazing opportunity to expand my academic horizons while also embarking on an amazing adventure that I will probably remember for the rest of my life.

When Augie, one of my Spanish professors, brought up this 5 week study abroad program, I initially thought the idea was cool in theory but brushed it off, thinking I wouldn’t be able to pay for it and that I probably wouldn’t get accepted. However as time went on, I began to do more and more research about Quito, and realized that living in another country for a month might be a scary idea, but in the end it might have a lasting impact on my life.

I decided to apply and to my surprise was accepted!

In preparation for this program I had to face many obstacles and challenges. One of them primarily was figuring out how to fund this experience on my own. At first I was so worried and stressed out because I didn’t know how I was going to come up with thousands of dollars in such a short amount of time.

However after some hard research, scholarship applications and meetings with my study abroad and financial advisors I realized not only that paying for my study abroad was doable but also that University of Washington Tacoma has so many resources to help students like me succeed and reach their academic goals.

Although I know I will miss my family, friends, and boyfriend being away for half the summer, I know this will be an adventure I never forget and will be such an interesting experience as I dive into another country and culture with two feet. This is the longest time i will have been away from home, and even though I will miss the Pacific Northwest like crazy, I’m overwhelmed with excitement to see what Ecuador holds for me to discover.

I’m so happy I get to share this experience with my fellow Dawgs!

Until next time, adios amigos!