Life in the U.S. / Student Spotlight

Student Spotlight – Lydia from Wisconsin Studying in Ecuador – 3/21/17

(Lydia from Wisconsin studying in Ecuador) 

We have so many truly amazing and talented young students at Aspect Foundation, but certain students really stand out from the pack. Today, we are putting the spotlight on an American student studying abroad in Ecuador; Lydia from Wisconsin! Read all about Lydia’s year abroad below!

As long as I can remember, I had always told myself “I’m going to travel when I’m older,” but when my Spanish class did an eight-day service learning trip in Nicaragua the summer after my sophomore year of high school I thought, “What’s stopping me from traveling now? Why wait until I’m older?” So, I began to look into becoming a foreign exchange student. I knew I wanted to go to a Spanish speaking country since I had experience with the language and ideally, I wanted to return to somewhere in Central America after having gone to Nicaragua. I settled on Ecuador as the best fit for me. When my family and I first heard that I was accepted, we were ecstatic!

I was so excited to be immersed in a different culture and explore other parts of the world. I was nervous about how I would fit in with my host family at first but in reality, I could not have asked for a better one. They provided so many wonderful experiences for me like bringing me to professional soccer games, holiday parties, rafting in the Amazon, hiking waterfalls, and visiting the coast.

School was by far the most challenging part. I am grateful for the school experience since it helped me improve my Spanish, learn about the culture, and make friends. However, the school was very traditional and strict. I would consider it more of an institution than a high school, which was quite a shock compared to what I was used to.

(Lydia at Chimborazo with her new friends)

I lived in a small city called Riobamba in the mountains. It is roughly an hour drive from the highest altitude in Ecuador which is Chimborazo, an inactive volcano. I had the opportunity to hike Chimborazo with some friends from my school, which was an absolutely amazing experience (although very tiring and cold.)

(Lydia visiting Guayaquil with her host family)

Over winter break, my host family took me to the coast for a few days where I had the chance to visit Guayaquil, the biggest city in Ecuador, along with some smaller beach towns.

(Lydia hiking in the Amazon rainforest)

On the weekends my host family also tried to take me to different places. We hiked multiple waterfalls and even had the chance to visit the Amazon rainforest. Although I value all of the friendships that I made, I am happy that the majority of my travel excursions were done with my host family, since I feel those trips brought us closer together.

Do you know a standout student that you would like to see featured? Send your suggestions to