Over the course of the past 3 months (it has already almost been that long!), I have experienced new freedoms and new limitations that come with living in a new culture. Let me preface that by saying that some of these things are not necessarily better or worse than my day to day life experiences I have in the States, but rather cultural differences I am living and growing through.
Travel: What a strange concept it is to be able to travel on the weekends, and choose my weekly adventure! As I’ve mentioned before, Ecuador is a richly diverse country in every aspect, including it’s landscape. In the States, there is rarely the opportunity to travel somewhere for an entire weekend during the academic year. Weekends are too short and packed with homework nearly every single week at Hope. In Ecuador, the University provides 3 day weekends… (yes, that means never having Friday classes!). Academics in Ecuador seem to be a bit different, as well. While classes still have homework, tests, presentations, and group projects– there is much less “busy work.” All of the assignments tend to have a bit more weight, but they are all directly related to class material and there isn’t thousands of extra readings to be done. This makes traveling a reality, not only for the sake of time in days, but because of the decreased amount of homework than what I am used to. Not to mention the cheaper cost as well!
Time: Because I am here for only a semester without my closest friends and family and jobs, I have much more freedom with time. I can read a book for fun, go for a walk, watch a movie etc., things I rarely have time to enjoy during the academic year in the states.
Diet: The Ecuadorian diet is healthy, fresh, and nutritious for cheaper prices than at home. My biggest challenge is navigating life with a host family who rarely eats at home themselves. I have less control over what I eat than I do at home.
Transportation: Oh how I can’t wait to be able to drive my car again! The bus system is cheap and super helpful, as you can go anywhere in the country on a bus… however, it is also very time consuming on curvy mountain roads that make me feel quite sick.
Home: Being away from home just means being more conscious about everything. From safety, to time of day, to knowing where my food and water comes from, I’ve come to recognize the little things I take for granted at home.
These are just some of the basic things that are very different than my West Michigan life in the States. There are clearly freedoms and limitations in both lifestyles that provide different experiences and opportunities. What a ride it has been, the past 3 months!