Long-Term Impact of Study Abroad: Interview with an MSID Ecuador Alumnus

May 8, 2024

Nate Knatterud-Hubinger is a University of Minnesota alumnus working as executive director at nonprofit Mano a Mano International. As a College of Liberal Arts undergraduate in the early 2000s, he studied abroad in Chile and also in Quito, Ecuador, on the MSID—International Development in Ecuador program. The Learning Abroad Center interviewed him about his experience.

Where are you working now?

I'm at Mano a Mano. I've been executive director for eight and a half years and I've been here almost 18 years in total.

Can you give me a brief explanation of what Mano to Mano does?

Our mission is to create partnerships with Bolivian communities to improve health and increase economic well-being, and we do that mission through a lot of different community-based projects including clinics, schools, roads, water projects. It all started here in the Twin Cities, just seeing all the waste of medical supplies and other items that we knew we could put to use. And with our connections in Bolivia, that's where they ended up going. So that's still a priority and primary program that we have, and that's our main local program here in Minnesota.

If you could turn the dial back 18 years to just post-graduation, how did your experience on MSID Ecuador inform that?

One of the best things about MSID was how clear they made it before we left how challenging it was going to be. At Mano a Mano, we take somewhere between 30 and 70 people a year on trips to Bolivia. So there's actually quite a bit of parallel here. That's what makes it work—people who are that committed and people who do it over and over again.

Which skills did you either build or strengthen on the MSID Ecuador program that you use frequently in your current job?

Centering the conversation on where you're going. Understanding that we're not Americans going to fix things in Bolivia. We're going to learn about and see the capacity of our staff and the communities we partner with. So just making sure it's always centered on where you're going, not where you're coming from and what you want out of it.

In what ways did you strengthen your language and cultural literacy abroad?

Just day in, day out speaking Spanish, my verbal fluency was 10 times better at the end of it. And my host family kept saying that month after month, just how much better I was getting. Culturally, I learned the concept of starting knowing nothing and respecting everybody's opinions and what they bring to the table. That's been important wherever I go, in whose home or community I'm actually in, and realizing where I fit into that process.

Nate Knatterud-Hubinger