"You can read about how Ecuador is, but experiencing it is much different," said Jenna Buehler, a DePauw University freshman.
Buehler was among 15 first-year students who participated last month in the second DePauw in Ecuador Summer Program.
The DePauw in Ecuador Summer Program was created as the result of a major gift by Steven L. Trulaske, a 1979 DePauw graduate, and his wife Michelle.
It provides opportunities for students to study in both Greencastle and Ecuador before the start of their first year in college.
The students were chosen from approximately 80 applicants for their leadership and ability to speak Spanish.
The selected students spent three weeks engaging in studies, activities and community service projects in Greencastle before heading to South America for two weeks, where they lived and worked in the Tierra Nueva Foundation in Quito, Ecuador.
"We prepared for the trip by teaching children in a church camp in Indiana to speak Spanish," Buehler said. "For five weeks we were only allowed to speak Spanish. Being misunderstood was awful. But we were not allowed, by contract, to speak English during that time. You really learn how much of what you say is unimportant. I wasn't conjugating verbs anymore -- I had to survive -- and it just came out."
Buehler was required to spend one night with a local family, which meant she had to eat indigenous food.
For her, that turned out to be guinea pig -- which is considered a delicacy in Ecuador.
Now in Greencastle beginning her first year of college studies, Buehler says her summer learning opportunity "Was a great experience. It made me appreciate what I had growing up here in the United States. This really showed me the difference in reading about something and experiencing it."
Buehler plans to major in communications and political science at DePauw. She is an on-air personality for DePauw Radio Station WGRE, where she is on from 6 to 8 a.m. Sundays.