By Aubree DeVisser | Echo
"In the beginning I was not very sure about it, but then I convinced myself," Daniella Ledesma, a sophomore business major, said. She might have been uncertain about coming to Taylor at first, but now she's not quite ready to leave.
Ledesma is one of six Ecuadorian students-students at Taylor's partner university, Azuay University, in Ecuador-who are participating in Discover. Discover is a new program that includes: staying on campus for a month, participating in classes including ESL (English as a second language) and taking courses in their major.
Students applying for the Discover program must send in their English test scores and explain why they want to attend Taylor, according to Maddy Trudeau, the graduate assistant working in the Spencer Centre for Global Engagement. Trudeau, along with Charlie Brainer, Associate Dean of International Programs & Asian Initiative, and Maria DeLourdes, Taylor's partner from Azuay University, decide which six students come to Upland out of those who apply.
With help from DeLourdes, Ledesma described the application process as pretty simple. After taking tests and sending in scores, DeLourdes conducted interviews to better understand the students and their motives for going abroad.
"(DeLourdes) wanted to know if we would be able to get used to this change," Ledesma said.
In Ecuador, each student commutes to Azuay University from home, so living in a community of students is just the beginning of a long list of adjustments.
Ledesma elaborated on the difficult transition coming to Taylor. Back home she had her own bedroom and bathroom, so sharing these formerly private spaces with strangers in Swallow Robin Hall was difficult at first. However, she was soon able to connect with her roommates and others who made her feel at home.
"When I first got there, everyone was so excited to meet me-girls (who) already went to Ecuador. It makes me happy that people appreciate where I live. . . . " Ledesma said. "I think at Swallow I'm feeling like it's my family. It's really nice to come in and feel very comfortable."
Some students had previously been to the U.S. while others had not. According to Ledesma, even though she has traveled to Orlando for a family vacation, it was hard to leave her family in Cuenca. Her father was skeptical of her studying at Taylor at first, but was eventually persuaded by the safety and intentional environment Upland's campus affords.
Another business major, Rafaela Ruiz, was encouraged to study in America by her mother, who attended University of Michigan. Ruiz had never been to America, so having a family member with experience studying abroad highly influenced her to take the trip.
"(My mother) loved that experience, so she wanted me to go," Ruiz said.
In Cuenca, the school system is different. Ledesma said that in her major classes, there are 30-40 students. She likes the smaller student-to-professor ratio in her classes here.
"(The professors here) care if you are learning or not," Ledesma said. "I like the way they teach; they put examples and not just theories." She also expressed her appreciation for learning not only about America, but about global topics as well.
Juan Vintimilla, a sophomore clinical psychology major, values the extra information that professors offer outside of class material, and that they are willing to take time to help him better understand the information. He enjoys his classes, specifically the different ways Taylor professors teach in comparison to Ecuadorian professors.
"Usually we study the literature of the people of my career-Freud and other stuff-and here they study the brain (and) the neurons and put more emphasis on that," he said.
According to Trudeau, professors have been accommodating about letting each student in their classes. With a variety of majors, such as business and clinical psychology, each student's experience looks different.
Ledesma and Vintimilla plan to return to Taylor as transfer students if possible. Ledesma explained that studying at Taylor is an opportunity to see the world through different eyes and while living on campus, has learned from a variety of cultures during her time here, not just from Americans.
Despite the uncertainty of whether or not she will attend Taylor in the fall, Ledesma is still content with her time here.
"Whatever happens, I'm really happy to spend a month here," Ledesma said. "I'm really glad that I had the opportunity to meet all these people and even the Ecuadorians."
She explained that while being away from her family will be hard if she comes next fall, the people here can become her family as well: "Next semester, if God wants me to be here, I'll be here."