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Experiencing Ecuador

March 2017


Over Christmas break, Dr. Chris Martin, Dr. Katie Van Blair, and five MSW Students – Andy Biere, Stacy Gerling, Laura Siddall, Brandon Borkevec and Patty Ochs – studied in Cuenca, Ecuador. Dr. Van Blair also delivered an ethics presentation to social workers, social work educators, and students at University of Cuenca.

While in Cuenca, the students lived with host families to experience typical Ecuadorian living and gain a cultural perspective as part of their learning experience. The students also visited the cities of Quito, Otavalo, Saraguro, and Guayaquil.

In addition, they visited multiple agencies to observe the variety of services available for mental health, domestic violence, pediatric, and geriatric services. Throughout the trip, students compared differences and similarities to agencies in the United States through a macro practice perspective.

In addition to the curriculum, the students enjoyed other activities including hiking through the Andes Mountains, experiencing a traditional spiritual cleansing ceremony, and shopping in indigenous markets.

"This helped me identify and experience the struggles that people from other cultures deal with on a daily basis," Ochs said. "I think this aspect will help me become a better social worker, because I can now empathize with a large population living in the United States."

"Ecuador is a wonderfully holistic experience – mind, body and soul," said Siddall. "You cannot help but be enriched by the energy of the people, food, music, diverse landscapes, and amazing culture. I hope to one day adjunct for the course. I loved my experience, and look forward to sharing it with others!"

"Going to Ecuador at a time when things are so uncertain in the U.S. provided each of us an opportunity to see how another country values the earth, her inhabitants, and the cultural traditions that built this system," Dr. Martin said.

MSW students have the opportunity to take this course, MSW 930 International Social Work, every other year during the Winterim semester. The next time it will be offered is December of 2018.

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