A group of students who traveled to Ecuador for a CGHSR course pose for a picture.

“A Humbling Experience:” Studying Abroad in Ecuador

Center for Global Health and Social Responsibility | October 13, 2023

Amy Swenson has been to Quito, Ecuador, twice.

The first time she went, in 2019, Swenson traveled to the Latin American city to learn Spanish while working as a nurse. Her most recent trip, as part of CGHSR’s two-week course in Ecuador, provided a different experience.

The second time around, Swenson was in Quito studying the social, environmental and cultural determinants of health. Between daily lectures and field visits, she learned about the impacts that development, global markets and politics have on healthcare in the region.

Amy Swenson takes a selfie with a llama.
Amy Swenson takes a selfie with a llama.

Swenson is currently studying public health administration and policy at UMN’s School of Public Health. She said she hasn’t studied environmental health much during her master’s program, and the trip to Quito gave her a new perspective on the subject.

“I really hadn’t thought a whole lot about environmental health. We talk about it, but I didn’t totally understand what it was,” she said. “This course got me interested in how to visualize environmental health, because we looked at so many cool maps that showed how diseases are spread throughout the country or how deforestation influences tropical diseases.”

The experience prompted her to sign up for a fall GIS course to learn more about data visualization.

Swenson had busy days in Quito, attending lectures in the mornings and field visits in the afternoon. The field visits took place at  numerous sites around the city, including hospitals, organic farms, a rose plantation and a rehabilitation center that made prosthetic limbs.

“I enjoyed the lectures a lot. A few of the lectures about the political and environmental determinants of health, and how they have influenced the indigenous populations, were very interesting,” she said.

Read the full story, which originally appeared on the Center for Global Health and Social Responsibility’s website.

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