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Saturday, November 5, 2016

School Psychology Student Making a Difference in Ecuador

Paul Pham in Ecuador
He wanted to find an opportunity to continue developing himself as a school psychologist so he ended up in...Ecuador.

Paul Pham, a second year graduate student in the School Psychology program, spent his summer in Quito the capital Ecuador. He went there through the Ecuador Professional Preparation Program, a study abroad program for mental health practitioners, education professionals and graduate students.

“The program provided me with the opportunities and experiences to develop both professionally and personally,” said Pham, who is working towards his master’s in Counseling and an Education Specialist degree in School Psychology. “I strongly recommend this program to any students or professionals who are hoping to acquire knowledge of or fluency in the Spanish language, learn about Ecuadorian culture, and work in clinical facilities or schools.”

During the four-week immersion program, Pham, 24 and an Orange County native, worked at a designated preschool, received individual Spanish tutoring 16 hours a week, and attended weekly discussions with other school psychologists from other states.

“One experience that I will treasure is my time with the local preschool in Quito. I was matched to work with other professionals in the field of education and psychology and together we supported [it],” said Pham, who hopes to one day work in culturally diverse schools and become a positive change agent in schools. “We got to work with the teachers to learn about the education system, the students, and the culture of Quito… the students were excited to put their best foot forward in school to try and be ‘super estudiantes’ (super students).”

Of course, Pham also got to practice his Spanish and explore the South American country.

“The weekends were filled with memorable excursions and deep ‘charlas’ (chats) across Ecuador,” said Pham, who is considering applying to the program again.  One of my favorite weekends of this trip was spent in a location called BaƱos de Agua Santa (Baths of Holy Water). Here, my colleagues and I got a chance to spend a full day riding bikes down a trail full of waterfalls and viewpoints. A few of us even got to zip line across a waterfall, one of many amazing things Ecuador has to offer.”