“A whole new level of learning” – Sociology students reflect on 10-day research trip to Ecuador


For three St. Thomas University Sociology students, a research trip to Ecuador provided a connection between in-class learning and practical experience.


Katherine Corlett, a fourth-year student from Miramichi, NB; Jensen Elliott, a fourth-year student from Digby, NS; and Mackenzie Deas, a second-year student from Oromocto, NB, spent 10 days in Ecuador with Dr. Matthew Hayes to assist him with his research on lifestyle migrants.


“The main purpose of the trip was to be mentored by Dr. Hayes to improve our qualitative research skills and there’s nothing like being fully immersed in the research process with an expert to guide you,” Corlett said.


“I’ve read about research methods and learned what to do and what to avoid, but to go and have an experience where the methods are used introduced a whole new level of learning,” Elliott added.


Dr. Hayes began his research on the migration of Canadian and American retirees and families to Ecuador in 2011, and recently published a book, Gringolandia: Lifestyle Migration Under Late Capitalism, with University of Minnesota Press.


While in Ecuador, students conducted interviews with North American lifestyle migrants about their relocation and how it influenced their aging process and also took part in participant observation. They learned about Ecuadorian history and culture through guided museum tours in Quito, visits to several markets, a hike through the sacred Las Cajas Mountains, and by trying cultural Ecuadorian dishes.


“Bringing students allowed them to see firsthand what they had been working on in class,” Hayes said.


“It allowed them to develop confidence in their own research skills and participate in work that informs my research and writing.”


Their time in Ecuador provided a unique opportunity for collaborative learning as it was possible for each experience to be shared and discussed.


“I don’t think there was a time where I wasn’t analyzing something I had observed, learning something new, or discussing key concepts with my peers,” Elliott said.


Dr. Hayes is the Canada Research Chair in Global and International Studies at St. Thomas University and has involved many students in his research over the years. He hopes to continue working with Corlett, Elliott, and Deas over the summer and fall.


“This experience allowed me to refine my research skills, which I’ll be able to use on future projects with Dr. Hayes,” Corlett said. “I’m eternally grateful to have been able to grow and learn so much on this trip.”