Spotlight on Bella Ballard: A Year in Latacuga, Ecuador

By Mariecia Miller

Last year, one of TCP’s students, Bella Ballard, a senior, was chosen to be a student ambassador for the United States. On August 20th, 2011, Ballard went to live in Latacuga, Ecuador for a year.

“My reason for going was because I wanted to see how different countries work and the benefits and disadvantages of being an American,” Ballard said.

She said that Ecuador varied from the US on many levels.

“They are very family orientated and school is different,” said Ballard. “They’re not as lazy, and they eat a lot healthier and don’t eat fast food.” She added, “The food was always the same – always rice and potatoes and soup. It was really boring, and I think it made [people] fat. The clothing looked the same as here except they were all knock-off brands. The natives clothing was different though. They had their typical dress, skirt, hat thing.”

Schools in Ecuador are different than schools in America. They stay in one class all day and the teachers come to the student instead of the student switching classes.

“It was like kindergarten,” Ballard said. The education was less advanced as well. “It was like taking 8th grade math as a junior.”

Some of Ballard’s most memorable activities were going bungee jumping and doing homework with her sister while exchanging languages. The most exciting thing for her was living in a different family.

“I think this experience made me a more outgoing and understanding person, and it brought me a more worldly view of life,” Ballard said. “I’m glad I had the chance to go and I would recommend going to anyone.”

In her free time, Ballard hung out with other exchange students, went to the gym, and spent the weekends with the Ecuador natives. Some other activities she partook in while visiting Ecuador were bringing Christmas presents to the poor public schools and learning how to ride a horse English-style.

“It was weird and I have never done it before,” Ballard said about the horse ride. She added, “I learned different holidays and I got to celebrate different life experiences you couldn’t get somewhere else. I’ll always have connections and friends around the world.”

Bella came back on July 11th, 2012.

“It was really exciting to see everyone again,” Ballard said of coming back, “but it was stressful to [try to] understand my family and friends because they spoke [English] too fast.”

Ballard said she learned how to speak Spanish on her trip. She plans to take a competency test to complete her language credits later this year.

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