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Voices of ACES Blog

Global Service Learning in Ecuador – A winter break experience

JImena at waterfall in Ecuador

From standing at the midpoint of the globe to visiting museums, hiking, immersing ourselves in local culture with families, milking cows, and learning how to make cane sugar, cheese, and chocolate, I was never bored during the Global Service Learning in Ecuador course (ACE 298) which concluded over the winter break.

I found the most value in being able to engage with the members of the community we were visiting. Our small group travel fostered an environment of openness, curiosity, and endless learning.

When we visited a family of small-scale dairy farmers, I was able to expand my interest in environmental-related topics.  Witnessing the process of milk production, from farm to market, sparked a newfound interest in me, one that delves into the realms of fair trade, sustainability, and agricultural economics. These are topics I didn’t think much about while growing up in Chicago.  

I was particularly inspired by Sofia, an agricultural engineer and activist. Her presentation refreshed my interest in researching the efficiency of policies and gaps between the public, science, and policies. She emphasized the necessity for communities and policymakers to build bridges to address issues. This resonated with me, as I hope to participate in the process of creating policies that effectively address environmental issues within my urban community.

Additionally, I gained insights into societal dynamics such as the contrast between the collectivism in Ecuadorian community and the individualistic culture of America. How can we reconcile sustainability with a society driven by individualism? This is a question that lingers in my thoughts, one that I am determined to explore further.

I am immensely grateful for the enriching experiences and meaningful connections from this class and trip. It has not only broadened my horizons but has also instilled in me how I thrive while engaging with people from different backgrounds.

Jimena Martinez is a freshman in the Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics with a concentration in Environmental Economics and Policy.