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Bc. Zuzana Sopóciová, CTU Prague,ročník 3
About the country
Location of the place
Quito, the capital city, at an elevation of 2,850 meters, is located in northern highlands of Ecuador. The city is surrounded by many hills (in the west side is volcano Pichincha) and thanks to them the city gained its unique elongated shape.
Quito is typical South American city with small historical center built in Spanish colonial style.
Surroundings (possible trips, ...)
Despite the fact that Ecuador belongs to one of the smallest country in the South America, the nature is really various and it changes with every few kilometers. Thanks to location, Quito is perfect starting point for many trips. Mountain region offers many astonishing hikes to volcanos like Cotopaxi, Pichincha, Chimborazo. Also in Ecuador you can find many national parks like Cajas (really large park with tundra vegetation located 30 km from Cuenca in the southern part of Ecuador). Among other things it is definitely worth to visit Banos (small town surrounded by foggy hills with many waterfalls and hot spa), Laguna Cuicocha (not far from Otavalo), Mindo (many possibilities for outdoor activities), Quilotoa (water-filled caldera), Cuyabeno (located deep in the Amazonia forest this place is full of wildlife and beautiful lagunas), Isla de la Plata (small island and home for Blue-footed booby) or Montanita (small surfing town with rich nightlife in the coastal region). Also if you want to find out something interesting about Ecuador, their history background, culture and people I highly recommend to do Free Walking Tour which is possible to do every day in Quito.
During my whole internship I had been working in the Microbiology department at the Universidad San Francisco de Quito, which is located in the another part of Quito known as Cumbaya.
Most of my work consisted of helping to my colleague with his project of looking for and then analyzing the Bluetongue virus (BTV). BTV can be transfer by one particular type of mosquito called the Culicoides and it can causes fatal affects to livestock. On daily basis I did DNA/RNA extractions, PCR and electrophoresis. Also for short period I was helping to another collegue with her salmonella project which included media preparation and other basic microbiological techniques.
Salary (sufficient for local conditions?)
I got 380 usd/month which wasn't definitely enough if you want to spend every weekend with traveling and also have proper amount of food everyday.
There was only requirement for good level of English. First I was little bit scared because of trainees experience from previous years who claimed many people can't speak another language than Spanish but in the end I was really surprised that in my department almost everyone spoke English in some level from basic conversation to almost native speaker level. The real challenge came on the streets or in the shops where almost everyone from natives doesn't speak English but combination of "Spenglish" and furiously waving and pointing with hands works almost everytime :-). Also if you have some extra money for spending it's fine to take some Spanish lessons, many trainees have improved their language skills pretty fast.
Accommodation (price, who provided it)
From this year IAESTE Ecuador started co-operation with new hostel called Don Quijote so basically at the beginning almost every trainee lived there. For shared room (we were three in one room) the price was 180 usd/ month (plus 20 usd if you wanted to use kitchen and its facilities) which was pretty much even for accomodation in Ecuador. We got only one key and the hostal didn't provide us with basic stuff like toilet paper, but on the other hand once a week they cleaned our room. Owner of the hostel made many regulations and rules which made the living there harder so personally I don't recommend this hostel. Some people found their accommodation by themselves and they paid for single room not more then 150 usd. Only positive thing about hostel were people who lived there.
Meeting IAESTE members (pick-up at the airport, organized events...)
From the airport I was picked-up by Andres, who is Johanna's brother (Johana is member of IAESTE Ecuador). IAESTE organised some trips and parties for us, but the most of the trip we organised by ourselves.
Meeting other foreign students
Thanks to fact that this year almost everyone lived in the same hostel I got chance to meet every foreign student who have been there for the internship in the same time as me. We made many trips together and almost everytime we sticked together and tried to help eachother. One of the nicest things were international cooking evenings when everyone cooked some food especially known for his country.
Sport and culture
Quito is well known for its wonderful parks. The name of one of the nicest and the largest is Parque La Carolina, about 20 minutes by walking from our hostel, when you can find many sport facilities. I have been running there few times, guys from our hostel played football there sometimes. When it comes to culture once we went to Fiesta de la Luz, an event held every year in August in Quito but apart from that I didn't get many chances to get know the Ecuadorian culture closer.
Food, local specialties
Ecuadorian cuisine is really boring and really meat-oriented which was, thanks to my vegetarianism, not pleasant fact to hear. The regular lunch consists of soup, main (segundo) which is some chunk of meat served with rice and vegetables all the time, in the end some deserts and juice. Essential part of every meal is aji, which is type sauce of wide scale of spiciness and taste.
Possibilites to communicate with the Czech Republic
There was good internet connection all the time so I communicated with my family and friends via Facebook or Skype all the time.
Recommendations for students who will go to the same place
The biggest and the most important thing: be really carefull about your personal stuff when you are crossing the streets!!! Almost half of the students from our hostel were robbed in some point. Many people warned us about pickpockets but what shocked me the most was the way how they just grab your phone from your own hands (happened to me once in the centro historico so I just started to chasing the robber and got my phone back, I admit I was really lucky) or they just cut your backpack and take everything what they find inside. So never underestimate security and after getting dark never travel alone.
What not to forget with you
If you want to visit Amazonia don't forget about yellow fever vaccination. Essential things for weekend trips are the proper hiking shoes, waterproof jacket and good sunscreen. Ecuadorian sockets are working only with US standard so don't forget about adapter. Also the prices of cosmetics are higher than in the Czech Republic so it is not pointless to bring everything necessary from home.
Benefits of the internship
The benefits are countless. I've visited many breathtaking places, met people from whole world and done really interesting job which I really enjoyed.
Cooperation with IAESTE in the foreign country
Local IAESTE office was really helpful all the time, especially thanks to Johana and Estefy, communication with them was smooth and they helped us every time and tried to solve every problem we had.
Overall experience with IAESTE
One of the greatest experience I ever had. If you still hesitate it is worth to do this definitely go!
If you have some questions you can find me on Facebook - Zuzana Sopociova
The official website of the USFQ: http://www.usfq.edu.ec/Paginas/Inicio.aspx
Other useful links
Nice blog about living in Ecuador: https://gringosabroad.com/blog/