Cuenca, Ecuador is home to thousands of expatriates from the United States, many of whom are retired, volunteering or teaching English as a second language. That population, combined with over one million natives leaving Ecuador in 2017, “creates a fascinating dynamic in the city, with each immigration and emigration causing positive and negative effects for the citizens of Cuenca,” says Allison Ulaky ’20, studying anthropology, urban affairs and Spanish at Albright.
“Both the Ecuadorians and expatriates have different perceptions of each other depending how they experience the effects occurring in Cuenca, as well as both of their opinions on immigration to the United States.”
As part of her senior honors thesis work, Ulaky set out to learn about those perceptions and how they affect the local culture.
“I was interested in conducting research while I was studying abroad, and completed interviews with Ecuadorians and expatriates from the U.S. who are living in Ecuador,” says Ulaky. “I used skills I learned from all of my major classes, such as research techniques and conducting interviews in Spanish, in order to successfully complete my research.”
Working one-on-one with her thesis advisor, Associate Professor of Sociology Brian Jennings, Ph.D., Ulaky was able to complete interviews with ten Ecuadorians and ten expatriates living in Cuenca – all during a three-week college-led Interim in Ecuador trip.
“I was especially grateful for his help with scheduling my interviews while we were abroad, as it was a difficult task to manage both fitting in 20 interviews and taking a course in the limited time,” says Ulaky.
Once back at Albright College in Reading, Pa., Ulaky set to work analyzing the information gathered in her interviews and publishing her research on “Perceptions of Immigration and Emigration in Cuenca, Ecuador.”
After graduation, Ulaky is considering a career with an international affairs non-government organization (commonly called NGOs) or pursuing a master’s degree in either urban planning or international development.
“Conducting research in college is highly valuable because it allows students to explore their interests outside the classroom and develop ideas further,” says Ulaky about the experience. “It also offers students the opportunity to expand their knowledge on a topic that they may be passionate about. I had a great experience overall!”