Students put their Spanish language skills to the test in Guayaquil, Ecuador

March 18, 2013

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Left-right: Emily Crowe, Belma Bakalli, a friend from New York; Brianna Hardginski and Samantha Jayne.


PLATTEVILLE, Wis. – University of Wisconsin-Platteville students Emily Crowe, Brianna Hardginski and Samantha Jayne all traveled to Guayaquil, Ecuador, earlier this year to participate in a three-week-long language immersion experience. The program, which was coordinated through the UW-Platteville Education Abroad office and offered through the City University of New York, included course study at the Universidad Católica de Santiago de Guayaquil.

Following four hours of class each morning, the trio dedicated as many afternoons and evenings as they could to exploring Guayaquil, Ecuador’s largest city, as well as the nearby towns of Montañita and Cuenca, which offered a contrast of the modern versus the historic.

The students visited the Parque de Simón Bolívar. Brianna Hardginski is pictured.


“We knew that time would go by quickly, so there wasn’t a single day that we didn’t do something,” said Hardginski, an elementary education major from Menasha, Wis., who is pursuing minors in Spanish and Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages.

With unforgettable experiences like walking through a city park with free roaming iguanas, walking the mile-and-a-half-long Malecón 2000 boardwalk, picking mangos right from the tree and being welcomed into their host families’ homes like they had always been a member of the family, leaving was the hardest part of the whole adventure, they said.

“I was very honored to stay with a woman who lived near the center of the city,” said Jayne, an English major from Waukesha, Wis., who is pursuing minors in Spanish and TESOL. “My time and conversations with her were not only rewarding, but also eye opening as well. I was able to integrate and spend time with her family and even meet her daughter, who was running for vice president of the Republic. It was quite an honor.”

Brianna Hardginski (left) and Samantha Jayne are pictured in Montañita.


Hardginski and Crowe, a civil engineering major from Wauwatosa, Wis., who is pursuing a Spanish minor, both stayed with another family nearby. Their host mother, Norma, who Crowe said was one of the most caring people she’s ever met, prepared all sorts of traditional foods for them to try, made fresh-squeezed fruit juice every morning and always looked out for them, they said.

“It’s amazing how close you can get to a person in a few weeks,” Hardginski said. “I was so happy to do a homestay. I would recommend the experience to anyone.”

Exploring Ecuador while relying on a second language was a rewarding challenge, Crowe said.

“I’m amazed at what we were able to do in Ecuador while having to only communicate in Spanish, and now I feel like I can do anything here because English is so much easier,” Crowe said. “Studying abroad in Ecuador has encouraged me to keep practicing my Spanish and actively continue to learn, even after I graduate.”

Jayne, whose two goals for the trip were to work on her language ability and learn that she had the independence and confidence to navigate abroad, said being immersed in the language and culture was invaluable.

“It is necessary for any second language learner to experience the emotional journey of struggling to acquire a language and culture in the language’s natural setting,” Jayne said. “This for me was by far my greatest triumph abroad.”

Hardginski said their ability to successfully communicate with native Spanish speakers is all thanks to Dr. Chris Schulenburg, UW-Platteville assistant professor of Spanish, who emphasizes the importance of being able to actively converse at both the casual and academic levels in his classes.

Contact: Brianna Hardginski, student, UW-Platteville Department of Humanities,

Written by: Barbara Weinbrenner, communications specialist, UW-Platteville College of Liberal Arts and Education, (608) 342-6191,

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