Profile: Elana Rombro '18
Major/minor: American Studies major, Hispanic Studies and Legal Studies minors
Study abroad program: IES/ Quito Direct Enrollment: Universidad San Francisco de Quito (Fall 2016) & Brandeis in The Hague (Spring 2017)
Reason you chose IES/ Quito: I've always wanted to study abroad in a Latin American country, and this program checked off everything on my list! I got to take classes at a university with Ecuadorians, live with a host family and travel around the country.
Reason you chose Brandeis in The Hague: In the fall of my sophomore year I had begun to think about minoring in Legal Studies, and the Hague program seemed like a really interesting option to continue pursuing that minor and potential future career. Even though I didn't know very much about international criminal law, the opportunity to be so close to and involved with the international criminal institutions was very exciting for me.
Favorite class in Ecuador: Leyes y éticas (Laws and ethics of communication). I didn't really know what to expect when I signed up for this class, but it ended up being one of the places that I learned the most about Ecuador and Ecuadorian culture!
Favorite class in the Netherlands: Networks of Global Justice. The class really helped me learn about many things happening in the international criminal justice field, historically and currently. When we started doing court visits, this class helped me prepare for what we were going to see and learn in court, but it also helped me understand and process what we saw after the visit.
Housing situation in Ecuador: I lived with a host mom in Cumbayá, which is right outside of Quito and where the university is located. She had three adult kids who would come over with their young children often and I got to know them as well.
Housing situation in the Netherlands: I lived in an international student dorm in Leiden, a cute and small town near the Hague and Amsterdam.
Best memory in Ecuador: Snorkeling in the Galapagos. We went to the Galapagos with the program and they took us to some really beautiful places, but the best was definitely snorkeling around this big rock and seeing so many colorful fish, and some sharks from a safe distance.
Best memory in the Netherlands: Late in the semester when the weather started to get nicer, I really enjoyed taking walks around Leiden with friends. We had a couple of picnics by one of the canals and just enjoyed relaxing outside.
Greatest challenge in Ecuador: Being abroad during the 2016 election. My host mom was very kind to me when she knew I was sad about the election, but I didn't have a strong community of people that understood what was happening and why it was impacting me, which was hard.
Greatest challenge in the Netherlands: I knew how to ride a bike before arriving in the Netherlands, but biking there was very different from anything I had experienced before. It took a little while to get used to the speed of other bikers, and also biking along side cars and buses, but eventually I figured it out and it felt normal to bike to the train station or grocery store or anywhere else I needed to go.
What you know now that you didn't know before going to Ecuador: Lunch is the most important meal in Ecuador. People will spend their entire afternoons having lunch with friends and family, and often don't eat dinner (because they're still full from their hours-long lunches).
What you know now that you didn't know before going to the Netherlands: The Saturday market in Leiden is a great way to buy fresh produce and other foods directly from the vendors. On Saturdays, the entire main street is closed and people set up their booths to sell everything from produce, to fish and meat, to candies, and even clothing! It's a very exciting and busy time in Leiden.
Fact about Ecuador that you think people would be surprised to learn: Despite being a very small country, Ecuador has four very distinct ecosystems. On the East is the Amazon Rainforest, the middle is the Andes, the west coast is the beach, and off the coast is the Galapagos! All of these different ecosystems means there's a lot of biodiversity in the country.
Fact about the Netherlands that you think people would be surprised to learn: A lot of the Netherlands is actually below sea level!