Victor Nava ’10 – In terms of immersion experiences, this trip to Ecuador has been one of the most insightful and unique cultural excursions that I have ever been on. Especially for someone of Latin American heritage, I was surprised to find out that I actually had very little knowledge of “Latino” culture and am now very determined to consolidate my identity as a Latin American and use some of the cultural knowledge I have gained here to guide some of my studies going into my last year at Wabash.
All fields that I have studied (Education, Rhetoric, Spanish, and English) have come together and gained a whole new meaning because of the people I’ve met and the places I’ve visited during the past two weeks. Though I could go on and on about each of these fields and how Ecuador has impacted them, I think it most appropriate to focus on the reason for embarking on this trip in the first place: Education.
Since arriving in Ecuador, all of the students have been taking an afternoon Spanish language class where they focus on fine-tuning their conversational technique, vocabulary, reading abilities, and writing style. I, on the other hand, was fortunate enough to be placed into a “Survey of Ecuadorian Education Methods and Philosophy” class because of my language background.
On the very first day, I was introduced to new educational philosophers who formed the backbone of the Ecuadorian education system and how methods of teaching in Ecuador focus on the “four pillars of education” (something I hadn’t heard of before). In one week, I revisited all of my teaching methods knowledge and introduced some new perspectives that I probably wouldn’t have come across in an American education class. I honestly can’t wait for next week when I get the chance to actually work with Ecuadorian children at the “Centro de Informacion” in south Quito. (I guess I can put all of this method training in didactic teaching into practice then!)
This week, my focus has shifted from methods and pedagogy to in-depth cultural studies and the role of indigenous populations on the Ecuadorian education system. In all honesty, I feel like this class is a perfect mirror of the Wabash liberal arts philosophy. Through interdisciplinary practice, my professor has incorporated history, cultural studies, education practice theory, Spanish/English, and rhetorical studies all into one class! More importantly, he has really shown me the role that culture plays in crafting education and the importance of maintaining a student’s identity regardless of the dominant school ideology. Though I studied multicultural education at Wabash, I am now studying the same material while living in a country that has basically made cultural studies a cornerstone of its educational philosophy. The authors I have read in class and the narratives that my professor tells me are a perfect complement to the role of multicultural education (or “intercultural education” as I have learned). In reflecting on my teaching philosophy, I have now decided to focus on identity formation and methods that best reflect a student’s culture and family background. In all honesty, all of the studying that I have done at Wabash has finally come together here in Ecuador to give me a clear picture of myself as an educator and the true role that I have in a social context. I couldn’t have asked for a better outcome from such an immersion trip.