|BCA Students Return from England, Ecuador|
Students from Manchester University have travelled to other countries through Brethren Colleges Abroad for years, and this year was no exception. Among those who were studying abroad this academic year were Aimee Hoffbauer, Betsy Varner and Holly Rittenhouse. Hoffbauer travelled to Cheltenham, England, and Varner and Rittenhouse travelled to Quito, Ecuador.
Hoffbauer did not encounter the stereotype of cold, smoky England. “Smoke covered, no,” she said. “Cold, on occasion. It got dark around 3:30 p.m. as it got closer to winter. But, no, it is not the dark, dismal place everyone thinks it is.”
The accommodations in England were suite-style, with each resident having his or her own bathroom and sharing a kitchen. “It felt so nice coming home in England,” Hoffbauer said. “It literally felt like coming home after going away.”
Varner and Rittenhouse were in Ecuador, both living with a different host family. “We were placed based on our personality and preferences,” Varner said.
They lived with families who spoke little or no English. “It’s intimidating at first, just because of the Spanish,” Varner said.
Rittenhouse agreed. “It’s challenging—and sometimes frustrating—because it’s hard to really express yourself,” she said.
Varner, Hoffbauer and Rittenhouse used public transportation while abroad. “I would walk to the bus station, to go to the train station, to get to the airport,” Hoffbauer said with a laugh.
Rittenhouse said: “We weren’t allowed to drive, so we took buses during the day. But people there drive crazier, like, on the line. The scariest thing was our ride to school. It’s a half-hour bus ride and we had to go down a valley. The buses had to curve down the mountain and could have fallen down the side. You always had to hold onto something.”
According to Varner, buses were 25 cents per ride, one way. “You always have to have your stuff on your lap because of thieves,” Rittenhouse said. “But there are also good people there.” Rittenhouse had left her bag on the floor of the bus once while traveling, and an acquaintance picked her bag up and glared at a man behind them, who had had his hand in her purse. She also recounted an occasion when strangers notified her that she had money hanging out of her jeans pocket.
According to Varner and Rittenhouse, there was a notable difference of culture. “They have this concept of ‘machismo,’ the idea that male figures are superior to females,” Rittenhouse said.
Varner concurred. “It’s really common and acceptable to honk, whistle, and make clicking noises at women,” she said.
Rittenhouse said: “You just get used to it.”
Rittenhouse had words of encouragement for future BCAers. “Personally, I said I would never travel abroad for a semester,” she said. “I didn’t think I’d be able to leave my family for that long. But, once you get down there, they keep you busy – and you adjust to it. I thought I would have a hard time being away from my family, but I got to Skype them and it was fine. It’s something you won’t regret.”
To participate in the program, students should meet with Professor Thelma Rohrer, Director of International Studies. “Don’t wait!” Rohrer says.