Ecuador – How a Semester Abroad Can Fly By
"Ecuador is a beautiful country, with countless impressions, wonderful customs, delicious food, and endearing people. Experiencing all of this wouldn't have been possible for me without the Erasmus+ scholarship," describes student Eva Kollmitzer from FH Kufstein Tirol regarding her stay in the South American country. Geographically, topographically, climatically, and ethnically, Ecuador, located in the northwest of South America, is one of the most diverse countries on Earth.
Eva is pursuing a Bachelor's degree program in Sports, Culture & Event Management (full-time). During the fifth semester, she spent a mandatory semester abroad at one of the 215 international partner universities.
On prejudices and real-life experiences
"Before my trip to South America, I was somewhat concerned because of the many prejudices against South American countries in Europe, e.g., that they are unsafe, especially when traveling alone. But for me personally, none of these prejudices have proven true," summarizes Eva Kollmitzer her experiences.
She vividly describes her impressions of the country, its people, and the rhythm of life: "In recent months, I've learned a lot about the people and culture here. Above all, new views shape everyday life in our success-driven time. Haste seems to be a foreign word here, something I confront daily at home. Everything is a bit more relaxed here, even just walking on the sidewalk."
Eva had to adjust to the slower pace initially, but she soon adopted it and will take this positive approach back home. "Thanks to the Erasmus+ scholarship, I can get to know the country, live in a safe area, travel, improve my Spanish, and live carefree. I'm very grateful for these things," says Eva. Without financial support, she would not have been able to complete the semester abroad in Ecuador. She received her scholarship from the Erasmus+ International Credit Mobility program. This support is specifically for study at partner universities located in selected countries outside Europe, as in this case, in Ecuador. As part of the "Erasmus+ International Mobility" program, the scholarship includes a monthly grant and a one-time travel expense allowance.
Eva's personal highlights
The student reflects on her multifaceted experiences in Ecuador and comments on some of her personal favorites. "One of my most beautiful experiences was a few days ago when I attended a festival in Latacunga, near the Cotopaxi volcano, called Mama Negra. I witnessed rituals and customs and the wonderful clothing of the indigenous population, who are still held in high regard today. The warmth and friendliness of the participants solidified my impressions, showing me all that this country has to offer. It's a country about which we know very little in Europe (speaking for myself)."
Eva has also visited the city of Cuenca, with its beautiful old town, and the Parque National Cajas National Park. "There, I saw the most beautiful landscape I've ever seen in my life. Rolling plains with countless hidden lagoons and a diversity of flora and fauna that is hard to put into words," the student exclaims.
Another highlight of her semester abroad still awaits Eva: She will visit the Galapagos Islands and the Amazon – must-see attractions in Ecuador that she eagerly anticipates.
Overall, Ecuador is a treasure trove for explorers. This small Andean country on the equator is known for its Amazon rainforest, volcanic landscapes, rainforests, Inca ruins, colonial cities, palm-fringed beaches, and, of course, the wonders of the Galapagos Islands.
About the partner university and study support
Eva Kollmitzer has only positive things to say about her partner university, UIDE, the Universidad International de Ecuador, in the capital, Quito. The attending National Office Team has been most eager and diligent in supporting the exchange students. Particularly helpful was the support at the start of the semester in the fall: "Due to misinformation, my entire schedule had to be rearranged to meet the standards of my home university in Austria. The staff on site took a lot of time for me to find an ideal solution," confirms Eva, who also touches on the differences between the two universities. "The structure of the university and university life here is different; the relaxed work approach is also evident in the studies, and everything takes a bit longer. This I experienced as a culture shock as I'm used to precise, structured work from FH Kufstein Tirol with clear instructions and predefined dates. So at the start, I missed the structure we enjoy in Austria," the student reports.
In addition to the support on-site in Quito, the assistance from the International Relations Office (IRO) of FH Kufstein Tirol also significantly supported the student in her adjustment to Equatorian student life. "The team in Kufstein laid the essential info groundwork and was always quick to respond and provide solutions to questions and concerns. The collaboration between UIDE and FH seems to work seamlessly," the student praises her home and host institutions.
Eva also signed up for a buddy program at the partner university UIDE, a support program similar to what the FH Kufstein Tirol offers for its incoming international students. As part of the buddy program at UIDE, active students are assigned to the newcomers to assist them during the initial phase. "A great program for starters, which I soon no longer needed as I quickly made many friends who gladly assisted me in all concerns," Eva says about her early days at UIDE.
Conclusive thoughts about the semester abroad
"My time in Ecuador will remain a positive and valuable experience in my memory for the rest of my life. Time flew by too quickly," says Eva, who felt the winter semester was way too short in this case. "I've taken many people here to my heart, and they've greatly influenced my time here. I'll fondly look back at my experiences here for the rest of my life; they shaped me and gave me essential insights into another culture, from which I'll benefit for a long time."