Emma S. Field School Ambassador

What is one word to describe your study abroad experience:

Ecuador Field School - Amazing

"Just remember to be present and enjoy every moment, the field school goes by so fast!"

Emma S on a field school in Ecuador



Ecuador Field School participant
Duration of Field School: 2 weeks (Emma added an extra week after the 2 week Field School)
Summer semester
Studying International Development

  1. What did a typical day in this Field School look like?

It varied between days - but it was either hiking and exploring the beauty of Ecuadors biodiversity or it was travelling within Ecuador by bus to different places we were seeing

  1. What did you have to do for the course component of this Field School? How did it impact your degree?

We had two pre-departure papers - one was a self reflection of what we wanted to take away from the trip and the other was a reflection on the pre-departure course readings. Then we had a large portion of the course based on participation while in Ecuador. And upon arrival home we had a larger paper to write about a topic of our choice of something we learned about in Ecuador.

  1. What did you think of your Field School coordinator?

 Craig was amazing! He did everything he could to help out students and answer our questions. A few of us got a stomach bug while away and Craig helped out significantly with arranging doctors appointment and providing a lighter diet option to help us recover. He was also very compassionate about physical and mental boundaries of participating in certain activities while abroad and made it evident that our health and safety came above everything.

  1. How many other U of G students did you travel with? And what did you think of travelling with other students?

There were 13 students on the trip. We all had a ton of fun! I left that trip with new friends for life as well as future travel buddies.

  1. How did you interact with the local community during your Field School?

We interacted with the local communities in multiple different capacities because we visited so many different communities. Some communities were more of a raw experience where others were set up for tourism. Our experience with the communities, however, was more of a learning experience from the community members rather than us “helping” the community (essentially we didn’t participate in any voluntourism).

  1. What influenced your decision to participate in a Field School opportunity?

The ability to travel and make amazing connections with people within the host country and other students with similar interests at the University of Guelph.

  1. What was the best thing that happened during your field school? Explain.

When visiting a community in the Andes, the community leaders were so excited to show us their livelihood and all of the learnings that they applied to combat climate change in their community. Towards the end of the tour, they took us down the side of a mountain to go see where they get their drinking water. However, afterwards they told us we had to go back up. We ended up having to hike back up the side of the mountain for about 2 hours struggling with the altitude sickness, the rough slippery terrain, and the steepness of the trek. Once we all made it to the top, it was the best feeling to have made it so far with people I just met but we were all so happy to have accomplished it together. It then became a Field School joke that we will never follow a random Ecuadorian man down a mountain again.

  1. Where was the coolest place you traveled to during your study abroad experience?  

Intag to the Cloud Forest Ecolodge. From starting in Quito we had to drive North along this steep inclined windy road up and down until we came to this tiny village. From there we had to trek with our luggage for about an hour and a half into the rainforest to meet Carlos the owner of the ecolodge. The entire lodge is completely self sufficient and sustainable. We learned so much about the biodiversity of the rainforest through guided hikes, about the sustainable organic farm that is run there including a cricket farm, and learned about Carlos’ life story of trying to fight the oil companies that are detrimental to the rainforest. It was such a cool experience to be so remote in the rainforest on a sustainable farm with so much biodiversity as well as enjoying the wonderful life stories of a man that has dedicated his life to protecting the rainforest. It was just so inspiring.

  1. What was the biggest cultural adaptation you had to make?  

Learning to be happy with not knowing. I wouldn’t say that this was a cultural adaptation to the local Ecuadorian culture but more an adaptation to being apart of a Field School. Everyday I woke up and had no idea what we were doing. We just had to go with the flow and take every moment for what it was worth. There is something very important in just being able to accept the unexpected.

  1. What was your best learning moment?

All of my best learning moments came from Freddy Griefa. He is a professor with the host university (USFQ) who travelled with us throughout Ecuador. He is this incredibly smart man who studies the relationship between Indigenous communities and the government/oil companies in Ecuador. He just has so much knowledge that every time he gave us a lecture I was learning new things. My favourite was the lecture he gave in Tiputini in the Amazon that regarded the romanticizing of Indigenous communities and what that means for communities. He also touched on methods used by oil companies and the government to exploit Indigenous communities and their land for capitalist gain.

  1. If you were to recommend this field school to your best friend, what would you say?

It will be the best experience of your university career. You will learn so much and gain some amazing relationships, personally and academically, with students from Guelph and aboard. It is also so interdisciplinary that you will learn so much not only from the Field School but also from the different interests that other students bring to the trip.

  1. Would it be helpful to learn another language for this Field School? 

Yes. I think that in any travelling learning the language is extremely important, however, it is not a necessity. All of the lectures and hosts speak English or have access to a translator. However, we did meet some local university students that had limited English so knowing some Spanish would’ve been extremely helpful to be able to connect with them. Also, when you have free time it is nice to know the basics because very few people in the general public in Ecuador speak English.

  1. How did you finance your study abroad experience?

I financed the Field School with personal savings and employment income. I did have some help from the family in regards to spending money in Ecuador, however, the Field School fee, tuition, flights, travel health doctor, and insurance was all covered by me. It was a very expensive trip but worth every penny!

  1. What are your packing recommendations?

PACK LIGHT!!! There were on multiple occasions where we had to carry our luggage to our accommodations so make sure that you can carry your own pack for long periods of time. I’d also recommend to have good hiking boots that are waterproof, a very good rain jacket, walking poles if you are not a strong hiker on rough terrain, and a day pack that is comfortable on your back for long periods of time and in strenuous exercise.

  1. Is there any other helpful information you would like to share with future study abroad participants?  

Just remember to be present and enjoy every moment, the field school goes by so fast!

Ecuador field school pictures

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