And just like that my semester abroad is coming to a close. In nine days I’ll be sitting in my house in Geneva, Illinois with my family who I haven’t seen for four and a half months. The best word to describe how I’m feeling at this point is content. I’m happy in Ecuador and have loved my time here. It’s an experience that I’ll cherish forever, but at the same time I’m excited to get home and see my friends and family. I’m sure over the next few months I’ll have to deal with all that comes with processing an experience like this, but for now I feel content about leaving.
This is my final post, so I thought I’d share some advice for studying abroad!
- Get to know the people in your program.
One of the greatest blessings of the semester has been the friends that I have made here. There are nineteen of us in the IES Quito program and I take my classes with the same ten people everyday. We will be the first to tell you that we are a diverse bunch. We have different interests, different personalities, and we all come from very different backgrounds. But that’s the beautiful thing about these friendships. We are all very different from one another yet have grown so close because of this experience. I am going to miss seeing these people everyday and doing life with them, but I know that for the rest of our lives we will always have this bond, no matter where we are in the world. We struggled together, laughed together, and have seen the best and worst in one another. To my IES amigos, I am forever grateful for you!
- Know that whatever you’re feeling is valid.
Studying abroad is exciting and scary at the same time. You leave everything that is comfortable behind to jump into a life filled with unknowns. It’s perfectly normal to feel nervous. Everyone feels differently when they leave. For example, I was anxious beyond belief. It didn’t hit me until the morning I was leaving that I was actually terrified. But I moved past it once I arrived and took it one day at a time. Some of my friends were just excited to get here. Everyone is different and whatever you’re feeling throughout the whole semester is okay!
- Step out!
The biggest lesson that I have learned this semester is that stepping out of your comfort zone is where you experience the most growth. Try new foods, meet new people, do things that you might not normally do (with reason of course). When you leave your comfort zone you learn so much about yourself and it’s pretty cool. Be adventurous!
- Be present.
While I have fallen in love with Ecuador, there have been a lot of times when I think about what’s going to happen this summer, next semester, etc. Try to stay as present as you can in your experience because it doesn’t last forever. I’m not saying cut off all ties with your previous life, but try to stay as connected with the country you’re in and the people you’re with as you can. Studying abroad is temporary but the lessons you learn will never leave you.
- Open up your perspective.
Be open to new ideas and opinions. With having a diverse group of friends I have heard various opinions on all kinds of topics. Take it all in. You become more well-rounded when you take time to listen. Ecuador had its presidential election while I was here (it was huge, they haven’t had a new president in ten years) and I learned so much about different people’s perspectives and viewpoints. Be open, don’t judge, just listen and then shape your own opinions.
If you’re even thinking about going abroad, do it! You won’t regret it! You will learn things that you never could have learned anywhere else. There’s a country for everyone, so look into it, apply, and get ready for the journey of a lifetime!
When I think back to when I chose to go to Ecuador I just think about how I had no idea what was in store. I have seen and done a lot, more than I knew possible, and I am thankful for all of it. Even the struggles and obstacles, I am thankful. I can honestly say that I will not be coming back to the United States as the same person that I was when I left. Thank you, Ecuador. My life has forever been changed for the better and I will miss you dearly.