Touching the Sky – Quito Part I

The flag of Ecuador flapping in the wind in front of the Basílica del Voto Nacional in Quito.

As the world transforms into a cloud-computing world, humanity has grown increasingly more digitized, more captivated by technology, and more enamored by the beauty of the instantaneous. Don’t get me wrong: I am just as infatuated as any other nineteen-year-old college student. But what if none of it ever existed? What if you could stop sending every digitized piece of your life into the cloud? What if you could touch the clouds?

I’ve always had a fascination with defying gravity. Whether I was scaling a tree in my backyard or making my way on top of my kitchen counter as a young child, I’ve always loved to see the world from above. And then I came to Quito.

My summer started back at home in New Haven. After submitting a short application a few months before, I enrolled in an intensive 8-week Spanish summer program conducted for four weeks at Yale and four weeks abroad. Once we finished the first half of the course, my 14 classmates and I were shipped off to Quito, Ecuador to finish up the program. Some of my friends from high school were surprised to hear that I was going abroad immediately after my freshman year, but because of Yale’s extensive supply of resources, many Yale students seize the opportunity to study abroad as early as their freshman summer. Even science and engineering majors can study abroad as undergraduates, and many of my fellow Yalies also chose to study, intern, research, or explore all around the world on Yale’s dime. Over the past few years, the university’s president, Richard Levin, has made a long-term commitment to providing international experiences to each and every Yalie.

Living at Yale for the summer felt a bit strange at first. I no longer resided in the illustrious Vanderbilt Hall, I didn’t have five credits’ worth of courses, and I couldn’t comprehend what four weeks would be like without all of my classmates in Berkeley. But my four weeks in “the Have” flew by with barbeques, picnics, late night movies, and Frisbee under the stars on Cross Campus. Initially, New Haven was overwhelmingly calm, yet even without all of the undergraduate students on campus, the city has an energy of its own and a ton of awesome events. From organic pizza at the Yale Farm to Yo-Yo Ma on the New Haven Green, there is always something happening in the Have. Then, before I knew it, I was boarding a plane in New York with a textbook, a notebook, a few pencils, a week’s worth of clothes, a camera, 14 friends, and 2 professors.

The group of students and professors in the summer program.

Quito, here we come! 

Once we arrived in Quito and got to know our host families, we spent our first days acquainting ourselves with our new university, la Universidad de las Américas. The transition was seamless: our class was still taught by two Yale professors, and we were still sitting next to the same classmates. Yet outside our classroom window was a range of giant mountains rising from a colorful cityscape nestled into the valley.

Over the past week and a half since I’ve been here, I have scaled the highest clock tower of the Basílica del Voto Nacional (the largest neo-Gothic Roman Catholic basilica in the Americas), made it to the top of El Panecillo (a mountain that separates central and southern Quito and is home to La Virgen de Quito) and admired the city from the top of the Pichincha Volcano. I’ve said goodbye to Internet access, Facebook, and most of all to English. In their place, I’ve said hola to Ecuadorian culture, food, (largely nonexistent) traffic laws, and to all that this beautiful city has to offer. Maybe I really can touch the sky.

Gracias, Quito. Gracias, Yale.

Until I find my way back to English again, here’s a feast of photos from my journeys through Ecuador. Enjoy!

Quito from the top of the Pichincha Volcano, with a rainbow in the sky over the city.

Three Yalies in the study abroad program, on the shore of a mountainside lake in Quito.

The roof and spire of the Basílica del Voto Nacional in Quito.

A tall statue of the holy figure "The Virgin of Quito".

Yalies on tour in Quito.

 The twin clock towers of the Basilica del Voto Nacional.

Joshua with mountain scenery at his back.