Taking part in a five-month educational program in Ecuador wouldn’t appeal to most people who don’t speak Spanish well, but Manchester University student Trinity Schelich wanted to push her limits. So, with the help of the campus’ study abroad initiative, the Perry Meridian graduate took an opportunity to explore the country during the spring semester.
With some Spanish courses under her belt and a willingness to see what was out there, Schelich departed for South America on New Year’s Day on a wing and a prayer.
“I had taken five Spanish classes at Manchester, the last being a 300-level class,” she said. “But I still didn’t feel prepared for the language barrier.”
And she wasn’t.
“I was overwhelmed at first, but the people involved with the program did a great job of integrating me into the culture. Manchester is great at letting you take chances to broaden your horizons. I’d wanted to strengthen my Spanish minor and experience something different.”
What followed was an adventure of a lifetime for Schelich, who visited the Galapagos Islands, a beautiful coast, museums and cathedral. She also hiked breathtaking mountains and explored the Amazon. “I saw wildlife that I thought I would never see. I met some wonderful people,” she said. “It was everything I’d hoped it would be.
“I have so many favorite memories. From climbing Mount Pichincha (about 16,000 feet and the tallest mountain she has scaled), zip lining in a forest and even bungee-jumping – or puenting as it’s known in the native language – off a bridge over a gorge, they were all awesome. However, my host family is at the top of the list.”
Schelich, who described her family as amazing, stayed in the capital city of Quito. “My host father (Alex Serrano), who knew a little English, and mother (Sandy, who knew a few words) took me in with open arms. Their two children, 7-year-old Taina and 2-year-old Jullian, are adorable. I love those kids.
“I had so much fun with them. I hated to leave. They did so much for my conversational Spanish, which was one of the big reasons I took the trip. I will make it a priority to get back and see them. And I want to see my best friend, Kellie Cross. She’s a missionary who’s serving for two years as a school nurse and an English teacher outside of Quito.
“I made some good friends at the university where I was studying. We were able to get out and have fun from time to time.”
After the air fare of $1,200, Schelich said the cost was minimal. “I only spent about $1,500; I would have spent more than that at Manchester or at home in Indy.”
Because Schelich is active in sports – she’s on Manchester’s soccer team – it surprised her that girls in Quito don’t play that many sports. An important difference that she noted between Americans and Ecuadoreans is that the latter are much less wasteful than the former.
Quito, which is nearly 2 miles above sea level, has a population of 1.6 million. “There aren’t many skyscrapers and factories, but there are a lot of historical sites.”
Back home, she’s keeping busy between her junior and senior years by working as a counselor and a certified high ropes instructor at Happy Hollow Children’s Camp in Brown County, where she attended as a child. This is her fifth year to work at the facility, which is tailored for low-income youths from Indianapolis’ inner city and asthma patients. She used to work with Cross at the camp.
Schelich, daughter of Jill and Ed Schelich and a psychology major with a 3.86 grade point average, is looking forward to the upcoming soccer season. She expects the Spartans to improve on last year’s 12-7-1 record, which earned the team runner-up honors in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference. “We are taking our summer training seriously. We only lost one senior, and we will have a lot seniors on the team. We also have some talented freshmen coming in.
Although she’s been home for about four weeks, there’s still a lot of excitement in her voice as she talks about her visit to Quito, particularly when she mentioned the children of her host parents.
Schelich advocates for others to try similar possibilities. “There is so much to explore in the world,” she said. “I’m glad I gave this opportunity a chance, otherwise I feel like I might have missed something. I would give an experience like this a 110 percent recommendation.”
As for her career plans, she hopes to become a counselor to people who injure themselves through self-cutting and eating disorders.
“My overall goal in life is to love others and help them love themselves,” she said. “As long as I’m doing that, I don’t care what my profession is.”