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By Alyssa Kurke, American University


Alyssa is one of nine students from American University’s Community-Based Research Scholars program who traveled to Cuenca, Ecuador this January. The trip, led by AMIGOS and American University staff, focused on multicultural collaboration, service learning, and models of asset-based community development. Students visited AMIGOS partner organizations, participated in workshops, and got familiar with Ecuadorian culture!


There is a feeling that comes with standing among the clouds unlike anything in this world–an incredible combination of serenity and exhilaration and a breathlessness that has nothing to do with the thin air of the altitude. The wind whips your face as you look out on the city below, and it’s easy to let your mind wander, to remark on the thousands of people who have stood where you stood and the millions of hands that played a part in creating the vista that you see.

Though I only stood in the mountains overlooking Quito for a few hours at the very end of my trip, the reverence that I felt for Ecuador began moments after leaving the airport and stayed with me throughout. While credit is, of course, due to the sights and soul of the country, my trip would not have been what it was without AMIGOS.

Our guides were incredibly knowledgeable and considerate as they led us through an itinerary that showcased so much of what Ecuador had to offer while still helping us to engage fully in our service. In the span of the week, in addition to working with two extraordinary community partners, we were able to explore the streets of Cuenca, experience countless local dishes, walk the Equator line, haggle in the markets of Otavalo, and ended by touching the sky.

Barely speaking a word of Spanish didn’t hinder me a bit. Throughout the experience I felt safe, welcomed, and engaged. And, as I remarked up in those mountains, looking out on Quito in the valley below, I ended feeling just a little bit more connected to the world.

AMIGOS builds customized programs with partners like universities, schools, and nonprofits. Read more about partnering with AMIGOS!



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