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Postcard from Ecuador: Tracking the tide of globalization

Last year's class in Cojitambo.

The prospect of spending spring break in class makes most students balk, but for the freshmen and sophomores in Michael McQuaide’s sociology course at Oxford College, it is easily the best part of the semester. After all, what could beat spending it in Ecuador?

Since 1999, students taking Social Change in Developing Countries have spent 10 days in the equatorial nation as part of their curriculum. Through homestays, interviews with local residents, and other activities, they delve into the culture, politics, and social challenges of a developing country facing a competitive global economy. Upon returning to the United States, students reflect on their experiences to compose a research paper on a topic of their choice.

For the 16 students and faculty who took part in this past year’s trip, the focus on globalization and non-Western spirituality took the group to Rio Blanco, a community in the Amazon where shamanic rituals are practiced side by side with gold mining; Cojitambo, a village known for sending many of its able-bodied adults to the United States for work, often without proper documentation; and other cities and sites of archaeological, commercial, and historical importance to Ecuadorians.

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