A group of anthropology students had the opportunity to immerse themselves in a world outside their own through a study abroad trip to Ecuador. By focusing on the techniques used by anthropologists to conduct cross-cultural analysis, students were able to discover meaningful differences and similarities between themselves and the host culture. Not only did this experience expand the students’ knowledge of the world we live in, but it also stimulated self-reflection and self-awareness, as it is at the edge of difference that we see ourselves most clearly.
Ecuador is an amazing country with rich biological and cultural diversity. There are as many as 17 distinct ethic groups living in the different regions of the country, each with their own distinct culture. Our students stayed with two different indigenous communities, one in the Andean highlands and one deep in the heart of Ecuadorian Amazonia.
In the Otavalo region of Ecuador, students stayed in the indigenous community of Turucu. Immersion in the Otavalo community allowed students to practice the “participant observation” technique of data collection typically employed by cultural anthropologists. They were able to participate in a Minga to learn about community work; and lead an art-integration project with the children of the community. Students also participated in a shamanistic, cultural ritual at the Tun Tun waterfall.
In the Amazonian community of Rio Blanco – situated deep within the forest (i.e. no electricity), students learned about the everyday life of these subsistence farmers and the medicinal plants they harvest from the Jungle. The Yachaks (or Shamans), central figures in the community, lead students in lessons of the Kichwa Cosmological vision.
We look forward to next year!! Our students have pledged to raise money for a scholarship to sent back to the Turucu community.